Sluggish vaccine demand could put Alberta's 3rd stage of reopening in jeopardy: Kenney

WATCH: As Alberta is set to move into Stage 2 of its reopening plan on Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney made a renewed push for more Albertans to roll up their sleeves for a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The premier said more people doing so is key if Albertans want to hit the threshold that would see Stage 3 begin. Lauren Pullen reports.

While Alberta is on track to shift into Stage 2 of the Open for Summer plan, dwindling demand for first doses of COVID-19 vaccines could put the full reopening in jeopardy, according to the premier.

Jason Kenney confirmed Tuesday that Alberta will move to Stage 2 on Thursday, as the province has far fewer than 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations and is well past the benchmark of 60 per cent of eligible Albertans having received a first dose of vaccine.

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Kenney said as of Monday, first-dose vaccinations is at about 67 per cent among those aged 12 and older, however, demand for those first jabs is taking a dive.

“We have only 100,000 bookings over the next seven days and for us to reach the 70 per cent threshold that will trigger our full Open for Summer plan two weeks after, we need about 115,000 more people to get their first dose of the vaccine,” he said.

“So we’re getting to that critical point right now where every additional person who decides to get the first dose is going to be able to accelerate the full openness of Alberta.

All Albertans born in 2009 or before are eligible for their first dose and the rollout of second doses is also underway.

“If you’ve been holding back for one reason or another, now is the time, over the next week, to get the jab so we can move forward more quickly with the full Open for Summer plan.”

Alberta Health said later Monday that 126,536 more first doses of vaccine would need to be administered before Stage 3 of the reopening can happen. As of Monday afternoon, 99,600 first-dose appointments were booked for the week of June 7-15.

Kenney also assured businesses and Albertans that the Open for Summer plan is not just for summer — it’s the province’s plan “to be open for good.”

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He said “the virus will continue to circulate” and anticipates a fall spike based on weather, seasonality and variants, which he believes will continue to circulate.

“But the key thing is just growing that protection of our population through the vaccines and we are very confident that by the time we get into the fall, by the time that we will be approaching 80 per cent both first and second dose coverage in our population and we’ll be able to maintain that freedom.”

Kenney said there were 163 new COVID-19 infections recorded on Sunday night: the lowest single-day case count in nine months in Alberta. Alberta Health data later showed there were 127 new cases as of Monday. The province’s positivity rate was four per cent.

Labs identified 146 new cases of variants of concern. There was a total of 3,434 active variant cases in the province.

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Active cases also remain below 5,000 — at roughly 4,700 — according to the premier. Alberta Health reported 4,707 active cases as of Monday.

There were 351 people in hospital as of Sunday night, Kenney said. According to Alberta Health, 94 were being treated in ICUs.

Two more COVID-19 related deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours. The first was a man in his 40s in the Central zone who had comorbidities. The second was a woman in her 50s in the Calgary zone. There were no known comorbidities linked to that case.

As of Monday, 3,084,119 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, with 545,853 people being fully immunized with two shots.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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