COVID-19 live updates: Booking error cancels about 1,500 children’s vaccine appointments; Ninety-six per cent of Alberta Health staff vaccinated; Calgary Zoo to vaccinate some animals

Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Edmonton

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With COVID-19 news changing every day, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information in and around Edmonton.

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What’s happening now

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Share your COVID-19 stories

As Alberta continues to navigate the unpredictable waves of COVID-19, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?
  • Are you someone who has decided to get vaccinated after previously being skeptical of the vaccines?
  • Have you changed your mind about sending your children back to school in person?
  • Have you enrolled your children in a private school due to COVID-19?
  • Are you a frontline health-care worker seeing new strains on the health system?
    Send us your stories via email at edm-feedback@postmedia.com


Wednesday

About 1,500 young children’s COVID-19 vaccine appointments cancelled after shots booked at four Alberta pharmacies in error

Lauren Boothby

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Boxes of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to children aged five to 11, at the Beaumont Health offices in Southfield, Michigan, on Nov. 5, 2021.
Boxes of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to children aged five to 11, at the Beaumont Health offices in Southfield, Michigan, on Nov. 5, 2021. Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP

About 1,500 youngsters expecting to get a COVID-19 shot at Alberta pharmacies in the coming days will have their appointments cancelled.

Vaccination bookings for children aged five to 11 opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Alberta, but four pharmacies — three in Edmonton and one in Airdrie — were incorrectly listed, according to Alberta Health. In both of these cities, Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is only being offered at Alberta Health Services’ sites.

Michael Francoeur, spokesperson for Alberta Health, said incorrect locations were removed from Alberta Health’s system within an hour. He apologized to those who need to reschedule.

“We are aware of four pharmacies that incorrectly opened pediatric vaccine appointments in the Alberta vaccine booking system early (Wednesday) morning … The four pharmacies are in the process of cancelling these appointments and notifying individuals,” he said in an email statement.

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“On behalf of these pharmacies and the province, we apologize for the inconvenience to Albertans.”

464 cases

Meantime, another 464 COVID-19 cases were reported in Alberta Wednesday and four more people have died from the disease.

By Wednesday there were 5,033 active cases in the province, including 1,132 the Edmonton Zone and 1,836 in the Calgary Zone. A total of 470 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 with 97 of them in ICU.

Alberta received its first shipment of 394,000 child-size doses on Tuesday after Health Canada approved the vaccines on Friday. The health regulator said the pediatric dose is 90.7 per cent effective and there were no serious side effects.

— With files from Ashley Joannou

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Wednesday

Ninety-six per cent of Alberta Health staff vaccinated ahead of Nov. 30 deadline

Jason Herring, Calgary

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https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/1011-sp-ahs-sp.jpg
https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/1011-sp-ahs-sp.jpg PNimg

More than 96 per cent of Alberta Health Services staff have submitted proof of vaccination against COVID-19 ahead of next week’s deadline.

And though there remains thousands of staff who are still not in compliance with the AHS vaccine mandate, which comes into effect Nov. 30, the provincial health authority said no disruptions to services are anticipated as a result of any staffing losses.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 96.1 per cent of full- and part-time AHS staff had provided proof they are fully immunized. That count includes nearly all physicians — 99.8 per cent — but excludes casual employees, only 82 per cent of whom have submitted vaccine proof.

The numbers have increased from last month, when staffing concerns contributed to an AHS decision to extend its mandatory vaccination deadline to give staff an extra month to get the shot. At that time, vaccine uptake sat at 92 per cent.

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The mandate extends to all employees, medical and midwifery staff, students, volunteers and contracted health-care providers, including staff at AHS as well as Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest, CapitalCare and Covenant Health. Those who do not comply with the mandate will be put on unpaid leave.

The health authority and its subsidiaries encompass about 121,100 staff, according to the AHS website, in addition to an estimated 9,000 physicians who are AHS medical staff members. Those counts mean about 4,800 staff could be placed on leave due to non-compliance with the vaccine mandate.

AHS spokesman James Wood said the health authority has contingency plans to ensure patient care is not affected by the mandate, which could involve reassigning staff to work in areas with lower vaccine coverage.

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“Health-care professionals have a unique responsibility to protect their own health as well as the well-being of those around them who may be at risk,” Wood said in an emailed statement.

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Wednesday

Calgary Zoo to vaccinate some animals when doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Canada

Stephanie Babych, Calgary

Members of the Calgary Zoo are seen entering a private opening prior to the Zoo opening to the public. Friday, May 22, 2020.
Members of the Calgary Zoo are seen entering a private opening prior to the Zoo opening to the public. Friday, May 22, 2020. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Animals vulnerable to COVID-19 infection at the Calgary Zoo will be vaccinated as soon as doses designed for animals are available, according to zoo officials.

The Wilder Institute and Calgary Zoo continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation while maintaining personal protective equipment use around sensitive species, the Calgary Zoo said in a statement Wednesday. Though it isn’t yet known when doses will arrive, the zoo said some animals will be immunized when they do.

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“The animals we love and care for will be provided with COVID-19 vaccine protection as soon as it’s available,” the statement said.

In the meantime, employees and volunteers are vaccinated in accordance with the COVID-19 vaccination policy at the zoo, which includes the animal care department.

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Wednesday

NDP health critic calls on province for rural supports for COVID-19 long haulers

Laura Beamish

NDP health critic David Shepherd wants the Alberta government to release all of the modelling and scientific data used to justify stopping the test-trace-isolate system during a news conference in Edmonton on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.
NDP health critic David Shepherd wants the Alberta government to release all of the modelling and scientific data used to justify stopping the test-trace-isolate system during a news conference in Edmonton on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

Fort McMurray — David Shepherd, the NDP’s critic for health, is calling on the UCP government to address heath-care supports for people in rural Alberta with long-term problems linked to COVID-19.

At a press conference in Fort McMurray, Shepherd said the government needs to create a task force tracking how many Albertans have long-COVID symptoms. He also urged the government to fund research and provide extra support for patients.

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The task force would provide guidelines to help Albertans with long COVID qualify for income support and human rights protections. For now, a patient needs to be diagnosed with a condition meeting the standards of the Disability-Related Employment Supports and Services Regulation.

“Jason Kenney and his health minister must publicly acknowledge long COVID in the legislature, dispel the mystery and stigma of this condition, and lay out their plans to support Albertans who are living with this condition,” he said.

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, more than 332,000 Albertans have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Research is limited and ongoing, but Alberta Health Services (AHS) estimates 20 per cent of recovered COVID-19 patients will have long-term health problems for at least 12 weeks.

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Long COVID symptoms vary and last days or months. They include damaged lungs, frequent coughing, organ failure and blood clots. In extreme cases, blood clots have caused amputations. People have reported neurological problems linked to taste, smell or hearing, and pains in hands and feet.

“I asked the health minister about his government’s plan to address this in the legislature last week and the minister didn’t even want to say that long-COVID existed,” said Shepherd.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping did not return comment by deadline. But during Tuesday’s question period at the legislature, Copping acknowledged long-term health problems in some recovered COVID-19 patients. The interaction took place after the press conference.

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“If and when dedicated services are needed, AHS and clinicians will determine what those services are and how they should be organized,” he said.

Christina Gray, NDP critic for labour and immigration, challenged Copping to support coverage for workers who caught COVID-19 in the workplace. She also urged him to immediately begin tracking and publicly reporting long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

“We’re continuing to study the effects of long COVID, what the impacts will be on our health system, and we will watch this carefully,” said Copping. “I’m sure that AHS and Alberta Health will make recommendations to us to be able to provide the funding that we need to be able to support this and all of the diseases that Albertans face.”

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Wednesday

Europe’s rejection of AstraZeneca vaccine caused its COVID-19 surge, CEO says

Lynn Chaya, National Post

Empty vials of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine amid a vaccination campaign,
Empty vials of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine amid a vaccination campaign, Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot says he might have an explanation for the surge in infections engulfing Europe — not enough people took his vaccine.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Soriot said that differences in T-cell immunity between vaccines could potentially mean that those who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab had longer-lasting protection against COVID-19.

“It’s really interesting when you look at the U.K.,” he said. “There was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalizations relative to Europe. In the U.K. [the Oxford/AstraZeneca] vaccine was used to vaccinate older people whereas in Europe, people thought initially the vaccine doesn’t work in older people.”

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Hesitancy around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine began earlier this year when Germany became the first European country to discourage the jab for people older than 65, citing insufficient data for the vaccine’s safe use in this age group and a risk of blood clots. Canada, Italy, France, Poland and Sweden quickly followed suit.

In March of this year, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations halted the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine despite Health Canada’s authorization for it to be administered to adults of all ages. NACI later made that advisory applicable to people younger than 55.

“People should appreciate that not all blood clots are created the same,” infectious diseases physician Isaac Bogoch told CBC. “This is a very specific and particular method of blood clotting that likely has an association with the vaccine.”

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Countries that suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ultimately reversed the advisory once more data was made available.

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Wednesday

Ottawa clarifies COVID-19 travel exemption after dozens in B.C. fined for crossing into U.S.

The Canadian Press

Homes on Boundary Bay in Delta, B.C., left, and Point Roberts, Wash., right, are separated by the Canada-U.S. border which is just north of Roosevelt Way, centre, in Point Roberts, as seen in an aerial view on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
Homes on Boundary Bay in Delta, B.C., left, and Point Roberts, Wash., right, are separated by the Canada-U.S. border which is just north of Roosevelt Way, centre, in Point Roberts, as seen in an aerial view on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Photo by Darryl Dyck /THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal minister of emergency preparedness says border guards have been advised that British Columbia residents can cross into the United States for essential supplies because of flooding in the province after some travellers were reportedly facing fines or told they would have to quarantine on returning to Canada.

Cloverdale resident Trina Brady said she crossed into the States on Monday morning and bought fuel, two containers of milk and a block of cheese before returning home.

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On her way back, she presented her Nexus card, immunization records and her shopping receipts to a border agent, but was then asked if she had a PCR test.

When she replied she didn’t need one, she said the agent told her she was mistaken and presented two options: stay in the United States and get a PCR test or continue into Canada with a $5,750 fine from the health authority for violating the Quarantine Act.

“I decided to take the fine and they gave me a COVID test kit and told me to go and quarantine until I received a negative test,” she said.

She spent the next day calling government and health agencies requesting answers.

“We’re really getting nowhere,” she said Tuesday night. “All we’ve gotten was a response from the federal government saying that never should have happened and it was erroneous, but they have yet to lift the quarantine off of me.”

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Wednesday

COVID-19 vaccine bookings open for children aged 5 to 11

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children is pictured at the Meuhedet Healthcare Services Organisation in Tel Aviv on Nov. 22, 2021, as Israel begins coronavirus vaccination campaign for 5 to 11-year-olds.
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children is pictured at the Meuhedet Healthcare Services Organisation in Tel Aviv on Nov. 22, 2021, as Israel begins coronavirus vaccination campaign for 5 to 11-year-olds. Photo by JACK GUEZ

Parents of children ages 5 to 11 can now go online and book first doses of COVID-19 for that age group.

As of 8 a.m. appointments can be booked through the AHS online tool or by calling 811.

Alberta is scheduled to receive 394,000 pediatric Pfizer doses by the end of this week, enough for every child in this age group to get their first shot. The first shipment arrived Tuesday.

Health Canada approved the child-safe version of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for this age group last week.

Appointments open Friday. Vaccines will be offered at 120 Alberta Health Services (AHS) clinics but parents can pre-register online to save time. A handful of pharmacies are also giving them out where AHS sites are not convenient, and children on First Nations reserves can visit a local public health clinic.

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Letter of the day

Fans arriving early at Commonwealth Stadium watch the Edmonton Elks warm up before the Labour Day Rematch against the Calgary Stampeders in Edmonton on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Fans arriving early at Commonwealth Stadium watch the Edmonton Elks warm up before the Labour Day Rematch against the Calgary Stampeders in Edmonton on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Does anyone else find it ironic that in the same issue of Tuesday’s Edmonton Journal that has a front-page story on city council doling out $215,000 for assorted anti-racism initiatives, there’s an account of the chair of the Edmonton Elks board of directors, Ian Murray, lamenting the fact that the core of the club’s support comes from old, white males?

As a member of that “brutal” demographic and a 41-year season ticket holder of the Eskimos/Elks, who has probably, along with my wife (who’s also white but not old like me) contributed over $25,000 to the club over the years, should I apologize for my selfishness in not making way for the rest of our community to take part in cheering on the Green and Gold? Maybe the remaining 40,000 or so empty seats aren’t sufficient and I should vacate mine so they can put their feet up.

I think I understand what Mr. Murray (who, judging from the photo in the paper, along with the interim COO, seem to occupy the same demographic as me) was trying to say. However, could he not do so without taking a backhand swipe at those of us who have been so faithful over the years, and lately so patient?

M.C. Schneider, Edmonton

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Tuesday

Alberta reports COVID-related death of one-year-old child

Jason Herring, Calgary

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Chris Schwarz /Government of Alberta

Infection with COVID-19 was a contributing cause of death for a one-year-old Alberta child, the province said Tuesday.

The death was one of 10 linked to COVID-19 reported by chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw at an afternoon news conference.

“While I will note that this child had complex pre-existing medical conditions that played a significant role, this does not diminish the tragic loss of one so young,” Hinshaw said.

“My thoughts are with the ones left to mourn this individual and all others, including anyone who has had to say goodbye to somebody they care about, no matter the cause of death.”

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Tuesday

Throne speech outlines Liberal agenda for COVID-19 recovery, climate adaptation

The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks up after Gov. Gen. Mary Simon delivered the Throne Speech in the Senate in Ottawa, Nov. 23, 2021.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks up after Gov. Gen. Mary Simon delivered the Throne Speech in the Senate in Ottawa, Nov. 23, 2021. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Amid extreme flooding and landslides in British Columbia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is promising to develop the first-ever national adaptation strategy to help Canadians adjust to the changing climate.

The promise was included in a short throne speech Tuesday outlining the Liberals’ agenda for Trudeau’s third mandate.

There were few surprises in the speech. It was mostly a recap of the Liberal platform for the recent federal election, which produced a second consecutive minority government for Trudeau.

It focuses on finishing the fight against COVID-19 and rebuilding a more resilient, fairer and greener economy.

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Reconciliation was also a major theme of the speech, delivered partly in Inuktitut by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person to hold the viceregal post.

She opened the speech with a reflection on the pain caused by the discovery last spring of what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the sites of two former residential schools.

“We cannot hide from these discoveries; they open deep wounds,” Simon said, adding that “despite the profound pain, there is hope.”

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Tuesday

High COVID-19 demand in some Saskatchewan hospitals still delaying some health care

The Canadian Press

Statue outside St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
Statue outside St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon. Photo by Gord Waldner /The StarPhoenix

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it has resumed nearly half the health-care services that were cut during the province’s fourth wave of COVID-19.

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It says high hospitalization rates in urban areas are preventing the remaining services from returning.

“We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of our fourth wave,” Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said Tuesday.

“It will take a longer duration for our hospitalization numbers to go down.”

As of this week, 193 of the 395 services cut since Sept. 1 have resumed, with another 68 services partially back.

The services include pediatric programming, home care, medical imaging and therapies. Additionally, the province said it is aiming to bring back its organ donation program by next week.

The health authority said surgeries are also increasing across the province, although rural areas are experiencing a quicker return compared with Regina and Saskatoon.

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Derek Miller, the authority’s emergency operations centre chief, said that’s because of higher demand for COVID-19 care in the cities.

“We really need to see those come down with the rest of it in order to start moving us toward normal,” Miller said.

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Tuesday

Double-vaccinated Manitoba Opposition leader tests positive for COVID-19

The Canadian Press

Pharmacist Alison Davison prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy on 17 Ave. S.W. in Calgary on March 5, 2021.
Pharmacist Alison Davison prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy on 17 Ave. S.W. in Calgary on March 5, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Manitoba Opposition leader Wab Kinew said Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be taking part virtually in legislature proceedings.

Kinew said he is double-vaccinated and went for testing after experiencing mild symptoms.

“Even though I had been double-vaccinated and that kind of led me to think this is probably not COVID, I did note a bit of a cough and sore throat and some congestion,” the NDP leader said.

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“And so I figured, well, as much as I don’t think that this is COVID, these are the symptoms so let me go and get tested.”

Kinew posted on social media that his symptoms continue to be mild, his wife and children are doing well and he is self-isolating.

That means he will take part via videoconference when the Progressive Conservative government reveals its agenda in a throne speech Tuesday — the start of a brief fall legislature sitting.

“I don’t know where I got it, but luckily I did start to self-isolate as soon as I felt the symptoms. And so it doesn’t appear as though there are very many close contacts.”

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