EDMONTON — Alberta is pausing appointments for people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney said Monday.
He said the province would run out of supply for first doses by the end of the day or early Tuesday.
"We'll get more vaccine in the coming weeks and some more doses this week, but we need to make adjustments today to accommodate this lack of supply," Kenney said.
"Even with a new shipment of Pfizer expected later this week, we won't have enough supply to continue with new first-dose appointments."
Pfizer-BioNTech indicated last week that it's cutting back on promised deliveries of its vaccine over the next four weeks as it works to expand production.
Kenney said no new appointments for first doses are being accepted and some appointments already booked will be rescheduled.
He said doses have been saved for those who have appointments for the followup shot Pfizer recommends.
"We believe that we can administer second doses to all those who need them within the recommended time frame."
Kenney said vaccines so far have been given to about 90,000 health-care workers as well as to staff and residents in continuing-care homes in Alberta.
"Yesterday, we completed the first dose of vaccination at all of Alberta's 357 long-term care and designated supported-living facilities," Kenney said.
"This is a tremendous milestone and I believe makes Alberta the first province in the country to complete the first-dose vaccine rollout for this important and highly vulnerable population."
Late Monday, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said in a news release that a "limited number of doses" were provided to Maskwacis Health Services to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak at four First Nations south of Edmonton.
Wilson said the doses were being supplied on an "emergency basis." He also noted First Nations are prioritized in the first phase of the vaccine rollout, so that any First Nation person over the age of 65 is included in the first phase compared to those over the age of 75 in the general population.
“I have spoken to many First Nations chiefs to assure them that we want to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible," Wilson stated in the release.
"Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the vaccine manufacturer and a lack of supply from the federal government, the rollout to First Nations communities has been delayed."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, reported 474 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. There were 739 infected people in hospital, 120 receiving intensive care. There were 11 more deaths for a total of 1,447.
Some COVID-19 restrictions were somewhat relaxed on Monday. Albertans are again allowed to visit hair salons and tattoo parlours, as well as receive wellness services — but only by appointment.
Outdoor social gatherings, which had been banned since early December, are again being allowed in groups of up to 10 people.
The limit on the number of people who can attend funerals has increased to 20, although receptions are still prohibited.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that Alberta can't entirely ease up, but that it can make small adjustments to provide people with some limited activities.
Hinshaw has said that easing rules now will act as a test case, and that COVID-19 case numbers will have to be lower before any other restrictions are loosened.
Measures still in place limit restaurants and bars to takeout or delivery, and allow retail stores and churches to open, but only at 15 per cent capacity. Casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries and theatres remain closed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.
The Canadian Press