COVID-19 rates higher in rural areas surrounding Edmonton; more 60,000 jabs booked for kids 5-11

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While COVID-19 cases have been dropping in Edmonton since the peak of the fourth wave, case rates in surrounding rural areas are still relatively high.

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The city of Edmonton has the third-lowest case rate of any Alberta city: 61.3 cases per 100,000 people, with 636 cases, according to the province’s COVID-19 data updated Friday.

But the situation is significantly different outside the provincial capital, with some regions experiencing double, triple, and even four times Edmonoton’s rate, including Wetaskiwin (263), Beaumont (224.7), Stony Plain (163.6) and Leduc (151.9). Rates in the Lac Ste. Anne, Ponoka and Brazeau counties are in the 190s, and Parkland County’s rate is about 180.

The smaller a region’s population, the greater the impact each additional case has on the overall rate.

Edmonton doctor Shazma Mithani suspects the disparity may be related to fewer people being vaccinated outside urban centres.

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“Lower vaccination rates are going to mean higher case numbers. We saw that during the fourth wave with the North Zone really getting just completely destroyed with cases,” she said in an interview.

Overall, about 75 per cent of Edmontonians are fully vaccinated, according to a City of Edmonton and Alberta Health dataset that breaks down rates by neighbourhood.

While a higher percentage of people are fully vaccinated in Sherwood Park and St. Albert than Edmonton — 78.7 and 78.5 per cent, respectively — vaccine uptake in rural communities like Wetaskiwin, Sturgeon County, Leduc, Devon, Ponoka, Edson, Vegreville, Thornsby and Westview are between 60 and 70 per cent. Drayton Valley has some of the lowest coverage in Alberta, at 54.1 per cent with two doses.

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Mithani said vaccination rates for adults between 20 and 50 in particular are significant, as people who fell sick in previous waves fell into that age group. This age group also has lower rates in many rural areas.

More than 60,000 kids to get the jab

Soon tens of thousands more Alberta children will be vaccinated.

Health Minister Jason Copping on Friday announced 61,014 appointments to get Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine have been made for children ages five to 11 after bookings opened on Wednesday. There were 6,301 confirmed appointments on Friday, the first day shots were available for this age group.

In the Edmonton Zone, 23,274 appointments have been scheduled.

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New variant

Meantime, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Twitter addressed news of the new COVID-19 variant of concern, known as Omicron. No cases have been found in Canada, she said.

There’s some evidence this variant mutates more often and spreads more easily, making it all that more important to get vaccinated, Hinshaw said.

“Having a complete vaccination series has historically provided a high level of protection against severe outcomes even with new variants of concern,” she wrote in a tweet.

Alberta is monitoring the situation and will make changes as needed, she said.

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Three more people have died from COVID-19, according to Alberta’s publicly available data updated Friday. Another 356 COVID-19 cases were reported and 455 patients were hospitalized with the disease, including 90 in ICU.

Provincewide, there were 5,017 active cases including 1,163 in the Edmonton Zone and 1,874 in the Calgary Zone.

lboothby@postmedia.com

@laurby

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