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The province may have crossed a threshold with 70% of eligible residents having a dose of COVID-19 vaccine, allowing it to move to Stage 3 reopening on July 1, but vaccine coverage varies widely in Alberta.

Read more:

COVID-19: Public health measures in Alberta to end on July 1

Alberta Health data excludes aggregate doses reported by First Nations Health and Inuit Branch, Indigenous Services Canada.

As of June 20, immunization data from Alberta Health shows geographic areas of northern and southern Alberta with all ages, dose coverage ranging between 20 and 40 percent:

  • Wood buffalo: 36.2%
  • Wabasca : 31,7%
  • Workforce: 38.6%
  • Fairview : 39,4 %
  • Haute Prairie: 34.1%
  • Valley view: 39.1%
  • Taber Municipal District: 34.6%
  • Forty Mile County: 28.2%
  • Cardston-Prix : 35,4 %

Also as of June 20, in the High Level geographic area, 14.1% of the eligible population had received a dose.

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“When you look across the province, there are some pretty big differences in immunization,” said Dr. Stephanie Smith, infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta Hospital.

“I think we really need to look at these populations and what’s the problem? What is the barrier?

Tony Nickonchuk, a Peace River-based pharmacist who has analyzed immunization trends, points out several factors that may determine greater uptake of immunization, such as level of education acquired and geography.

For example, the geographic area of ​​High Level extends north to the border with the Northwest Territories, west to British Columbia, east beyond Crete and from Fort Vermilion, and south after Paddle Prairie.

“It’s a huge geographic area. For example, there are no pharmacies that make COVID vaccines north of Manning. There is also a huge access problem in some of these areas. As a general rule, when you look at it, areas that are really sparsely populated certainly have lower absorption, ”he said.

READ MORE: Doctor says Alberta needs to get creative, bring vaccine to people to increase absorption of first dose

Nickonchuk also highlights historical trends.

“There are communities in [High Level] area which is well known to have very low vaccination rates even among non-COVID vaccinations, therefore routine infant vaccinations, ”he said.

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Other barriers can range from concerns about vaccine safety to feeling that COVID-19 is not an issue. Last month, the provincial government specifically spoke about rural versus urban experiences with COVID-19.

He highlighted how rural hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are 26% higher than urban rates, and he highlighted how ICU rates for COVID-19 in rural areas are 30% higher. high.

“Certainly we’ve heard that in rural areas where there haven’t been as many cases, people think, ‘It doesn’t really affect me,’” Smith said.

“There has been work in some communities related to that, really targeted messages, so Hutterite settlements, that sort of thing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s probably what we now need to start doing to try and keep the immunization rates up. “

High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer, who is fully vaccinated, said members of the High Level community have been vaccinated as part of federal programs with First Nations communities, but there are people in the area that might never be vaccinated.

“They don’t believe in vaccinations and these are their personal beliefs. No matter what you do – donate money to get vaccinated or get a vaccination passport – they just won’t do it, ”she said.

McAteer said there are also residents who have concerns about the safety of the vaccine and don’t believe the virus can lead to serious illness. She said there was misinformation online.

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READ MORE: New social media campaign targets COVID-19 disinformation with science

She also points out that internet and broadband are poor in some communities in northern Alberta, making it difficult to book appointments.

“If we had had more walk-in clinics, I would say we would probably have more people vaccinated. But having to make an appointment and cover more than 120 kilometers is very difficult, ”she said.

Alberta Health Services have set up walk-in clinics across the province for first doses, but experts said more work needs to be done to remove barriers.

“It’s difficult in less populated areas because you don’t have as many centralized community centers, and even if you do, you have people coming from far and wide to get to these places,” Nickonchuk said. .

“As much as it can be brought closer to people, the better. But it is difficult in these geographically massive areas because it obviously also reduces costs. “

Dr Kelly Burak, professor of medicine and epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, said the province must make it easier to get the vaccine and highlights the vaccine rodeo that took place in northeast Calgary earlier this month. .

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“It was a very important initiative. We need to do more. We need to get people vaccinated, ”he said.

READ MORE: Doctors in Alberta worried about Stage 3 reopening, pointing to more transmissible Delta variant

Burak said this is particularly important as more cases of the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than the original strain of the new coronavirus, are identified in the province.

“If we have large proportions of the population that are unvaccinated, that’s really where the Delta variant will take hold, and we’re probably going to see a fourth wave because of that,” he said.

Many businesses and residents are eagerly awaiting a return to normal on Canada Day, but Dr. Chris Mody, Head of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary, has said now was not the time to relax.

“People always need to be vaccinated… We should not in any case stop vaccinating people because we have reached a threshold and we have opened up,” he said.

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


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