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Alberta

Alberta expands boosters, launches booster shot campaign

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Alberta is opening COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all Albertans aged 18 and older while launching an ambitious booster shot campaign to protect Albertans from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Starting immediately, all Albertans aged 18 and older who received their second COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago can now book a third dose.

The severity of the Omicron variant is not yet known, but it is clear that there is an increased risk of transmission. Expanded availability of third doses of COVID-19 vaccine will help provide increased protection and prevent community spread.

“There is still a lot that we don’t know about Omicron. But one thing we do know is that the most powerful protection from this highly contagious variant is to get a booster shot. I urge all Albertans to step up and protect themselves and the health-care system with a booster as soon as they can.”

Jason Kenney, Premier   

“I know that many Albertans are eager to get a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine and we are pleased to now offer booster doses to all Albertans aged 18 and older five months after their second dose. Albertans who choose to get a third dose and make use of rapid tests are doing their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“Third doses are especially important to protect against the Omicron variant. Vaccines continue to be our best protection against COVID-19 and with the highly transmissible Omicron variant, I encourage all eligible Albertans to book their first, second and third doses as soon as they are eligible.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

Albertans are encouraged to take the first mRNA vaccine available to them for a third dose. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer a high level of protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe outcomes.

Pfizer will be offered to Albertans 18 to 29 years of age for booster purposes as a cautionary measure. While there is a slightly increased risk of myocarditis in younger Albertans from Moderna, especially in males, individuals are much more likely to experience myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than the vaccine.

All Albertans aged 18 and older at five months or more from their second dose can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies or AHS by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling AHS at 811.

Alberta

Post-secondary schools must report on free speech efforts on campus, minister says

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Edmonton – The Alberta government says it will require post-secondary institutions to report annually on their efforts to protect free speech on campus.

A news release from the Department of Advanced Education does not detail exactly what must be included in these reports, or say what the consequences would be if the requirements are not met.

Minister Demetrios Nicolaides signalled changes were coming earlier this week after the University of Lethbridge reversed its decision to host a speech by a former Mount Royal University professor whose comments on residential schools have drawn fierce criticism.

Frances Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 after she spoke of the educational benefits of residential schools while questioning whether abuses at the institutions amounted to cultural genocide.

Widdowson’s campus speech this week was to centre on concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.

The Alberta government says the latest move builds on its earlier work in 2019, when it required all 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta to either endorse the Chicago Principles on free expression, or develop a policy consistent with them.

“It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to ensure our institutions are adequately protecting free speech,” Nicolaides said in a written statement Friday.

Alberta’s post-secondary institutions should be bastions of free speech and academic freedom that promote critical thinking. I will continue to explore greater steps we can take to strengthen free speech on campus.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

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Alberta

Overdose prevention services in Red Deer will soon transition to a mobile site operated by Alberta Health Services

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Next steps for Red Deer overdose prevention site

Alberta’s government continues to make overdose prevention services available across the province while also ensuring the safety of communities and neighbourhoods is a top priority. Alberta’s government will be working in partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Turning Point over the next three to six months to implement the transition to a mobile overdose prevention site operated by AHS.

This transition is necessary to respond to the changing needs in Red Deer while improving the standard of service delivery at the overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue working closely with the City of Red Deer and the broader community to put the safety and security of the community first while continuing to provide overdose prevention services in a professional manner.

“Overdose prevention services are healthcare services that must meet quality standards to ensure the safety of the community and a high-standard of care. Alberta Health Services is an accountable and proven operator that has experience managing these services across Alberta. My ministry will be working closely with AHS and the current operator over the next few months to smoothly transition these operations, ensuring there are no gaps in service for clients of the services.”

Nicholas Milliken, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“We appreciate the leadership of the government of Alberta in this area. We thank Turning Point for their service and the lives saved over the past several years. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Red Deerians is a top priority, and we are confident this new AHS-operated mobile site will continue to meet the needs of our residents.”

Ken Johnston, Mayor of Red Deer

Once the transition occurs, the new AHS-operated mobile unit will initially operate at the same location as the current overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue to work with the City of Red Deer, and may change the location of the service within Red Deer based on input from the municipality ­and the changing needs of the community.

As with all overdose prevention services in the province, this mobile unit will be regulated and be required to meet the quality standards outlined in the Recovery-oriented Supervised Consumption Standards in order to be licensed. Overdose prevention site service providers must also demonstrate clearly defined referral pathways to detox, treatment and recovery services, as well as primary health-care services.

Alberta’s government is continuing to build a recovery-oriented system of care, where everyone struggling with addiction and mental health challenges is supported in their pursuit of recovery. This includes adding more than 9,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces, eliminating fees for residential addiction treatment, launching the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app and expanding opioid agonist treatment.

Quick facts

  • To be licensed, supervised consumption site service providers need to follow requirements related to:
  • the safety and security of clients, employees and the surrounding community
  • standardized data collection
  • staff qualifications and training
  • clinical practice standards
  • good neighbour agreements
  • physical site requirements, such as having access to washrooms for clients
  • Health Canada is responsible for granting exemptions under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow supervised consumption sites to operate. Overdose prevention sites require a similar exemption under Section 56(1) of the act or a letter of authorization from the Government of Alberta under the authority of the province’s class exemption.
  • Alberta spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
  • Any Albertan struggling with addiction can contact 211 Alberta to connect with local services and virtual supports. 211 is free, confidential and available 24-7.
  • The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program provides same-day access to addiction medicine physicians and life-saving medications to Albertans across the province. Albertans can call 1-844-383-7688 seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
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