The vast majority of Canadians now have access to a fourth dose/booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine, but not here in Alberta.
Canada is now in the seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wastewater numbers are up, case numbers are up, and fatalities continue, making it clear that the highly contagious BA.5 sub-variant is spreading quickly through Alberta. In response, other provinces have been announcing expanded vaccination programs, but the Alberta government has yet to announce any changes or expanded access. Nor have they reinstated any public health measures to help protect Albertans or our health care system from this ongoing pandemic.
“Here we go again. In wave after wave, this government has ignored the evidence and dragged their feet instead of acting decisively to keep Albertans safe," said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “The Health Minister has stated a plan for fourth doses will be announced in the coming weeks, but a vague plan for expanded vaccine access at some point in the future isn’t good enough. Albertans deserve the same protection other Canadians are receiving right now.”
Many Albertans, including frontline workers and immunocompromised people, have passed the sixth-month mark since their last dose of vaccine. They are concerned about the growing seventh wave and are looking for the added protection a booster could bring.
“This government has done away with community public health measures, lifted mandatory isolation requirements, and has made no moves to implement paid sick days or improve indoor air quality in public spaces like schools. We’ve seen nothing to suggest that they have any plan to mitigate the preventable toll of this or future waves,” says Gallaway. “The least they could do is ensure that Albertans have access to the same vaccinations being offered elsewhere in the country.”
In June, the Alberta government lifted the last of the province’s public health measures. And last week, they further restricted access to the COVID-19 PCR testing program, meaning Alberta will have even less information to rely on when it comes to responding to this pandemic or contending with the inevitable impact of an increasing number of long COVID patients being added to our system with each subsequent wave.
“The government’s pandemic strategy has been vaccine-focused, yet they’ve still failed to deliver. Vaccine uptake is lower in Alberta than in other provinces, in part due to the government’s unwillingness to listen to experts who called for clinics in schools and other strategies to improve uptake,” said Gallaway. “Alberta must expand vaccine access while also implementing necessary public health measures and structural changes to protect Albertans and our health care system now and going forward.”
Friends of Medicare is calling on the Alberta government to immediately expand access to a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but recognizes vaccines alone are not enough to protect Albertans or our public health care system. We continue to call on the government to take action to address future waves of the pandemic.
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