Residents of the Regional Municipalities of Wood Buffalo and Banff will have their COVID-19 vaccine eligibility rules changed, and a significant shipment of COVID-19 vaccine will be diverted to both regions.
Tyler Shandro, the Minister of Health, announced the changes on Twitter on Wednesday, saying he had approved the proposal earlier in the day. In Banff and Wood Buffalo, the province will lower the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to 30 years old.
In nearby Indigenous groups, the age of eligibility for the Moderna vaccine will be reduced to 30 and higher, according to Shandro. “These areas are the hardest hit by the third wave, but vaccine coverage is lower than normal,” he wrote on Twitter.
Changes to qualifications will be made “as soon as possible,” according to Shandro.
The vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals is scheduled to arrive in Canada this week. Shandro estimates that about 30,000 doses will be delivered to Alberta.
There are 158 active cases in Banff and Lake Louise. Because of the transmission rates, Wood Buffalo, which has the highest per-capita rate of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, declared a state of local emergency this week.
In the area, there are 17 active outbreaks, including 12 at oilsands camps and work sites. Classrooms have been closed, and the only hospital in the area has increased its intensive care capability.
In Fort McMurray, municipal and Indigenous leaders are urging the provincial government to implement targeted regional interventions in response to an increase in COVID-19 incidents. In a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, the region’s 11 Indigenous groups urged him to focus more on prohibitions, such as stay-at-home orders and a community-wide curfew.
In a meeting with First Nations and Métis representatives on Wednesday, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says the province denied those demands.
“We must take immediate action. It’s something we have to do “he said “It’s encouraging to know the vaccine is on the way, but there’s still a crisis at the hospital.”
The increased vaccine rollout, according to Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott, is “an incredibly positive development,” but he wants the province to reduce the age of registration to 18.