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Alberta ramps up vaccine rollout

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Premier Jason Kenney

Alberta’s government will bring in four new measures starting immediately to ramp-up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as infections and hospitalizations rise.

The new measures will mean about 500,000 more Albertans will be eligible to be vaccinated starting April 7.

“We are in a race between the vaccines and variants, and finally doses are arriving in significant numbers. We will use these to aggressively expand our rollout, speeding up the timelines and expanding the ways that we get the doses to Albertans. We will meet or surpass our promise to offer every adult a first dose by June 30.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“Our health officials are working hard to make new shipments of vaccine available to Albertans as soon as they arrive. I strongly urge Albertans to get immunized as soon as they are eligible. When it’s your turn, please sign up for your shot, show up for your appointment and follow up for your second dose.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

Opening bookings to everyone in Phase 2B

Starting April 7 at 8 a.m., anyone born in 2005 or earlier with eligible underlying health conditions can book appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at participating pharmacies or with Alberta Health Services (AHS) online or by calling 811.

Those currently eligible under Phase 2B are Albertans with underlying health conditions born in or before 1973. This amounts to about 150,000 Albertans. By expanding to those born in 2005 or before, 500,000 more Albertans will be eligible.

Information on eligible health conditions, including examples, is available at alberta.ca/vaccine.

AstraZeneca vaccine available for Albertans 55+

Albertans aged 55 to 64 who do not have a chronic health condition can now make an appointment to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Effective immediately, anyone born between 1957 and 1966 can book appointments at participating pharmacies across the province. AHS will also begin booking appointments starting on Monday, April 12.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective at reducing severe illness from COVID-19. The rare blood clots reported in Europe have not been reported in Canada, and risk of COVID-19 infection is far greater than any vaccine risk.

Based on current evidence, Albertans who are 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are at least 10 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit from COVID-19, and at least 45 times more likely to need hospital treatment for COVID-19, than they are to experience any form of the rare, treatable blood clots reported in Europe.

Eligible Albertans in this phase can choose to wait to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to be available to them when Phase 2D opens in May.

Rapid flow clinics

Bookings for rapid flow clinics in Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat will open on Friday, April 9. More clinics will open in Edmonton and Calgary next week.

Bookings can be made with Alberta Health Services (AHS) online or by calling 811.

Pharmacy walk-ins

Alberta will soon expand its vaccine rollout at participating pharmacies to allow walk-in bookings, rather than those by appointment only. Additional information will be shared when pharmacy walk-ins become available next week.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses and protect Alberta’s health-care system.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Bedard shines, host Canada downs Latvia 5-2 at world junior hockey championship

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EDMONTON — Team Canada needed some time to shake off the rust as they embarked on a late-summer campaign for gold.

Coming into their first game of the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton, many on the squad hadn’t laced up their skates for a competitive bout in several months.

The time away showed at moments, but Canada held on for a 5-2 victory over Latvia to open the tournament on Wednesday.

“I know a coach is never happy with the game, but considering the time of year and where we’re at in this tournament, I think it was good.” said head coach Dave Cameron.

The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

Teen phenom Connor Bedard hasn’t played a “real game” in three months, and said getting back to competition felt good.

The 17-year-old was quick to show his offensive prowess, opening the scoring in the first period and adding an assist on a second-period power-play goal.

“It always feels good to score, especially that first one of the tournament,” said Bedard, an early favourite to go first overall in the 2023 NHL entry draft.

“I think it’s always exciting no matter who gets it. So definitely felt good. And it was cool to kind of be going to the corner and seeing some fans.”

Ridly Greig and William Dufour each had a goal and a helper for Canada (1-0-0), while Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger also scored. Captain Mason McTavish notched two assists.

Rainers Darzins and Bogdans Hodass put away goals for the Latvians, who were coming off a 6-1 drubbing by Finland on Tuesday.

Canada’s Sebastian Cossa made 22 saves and Patriks Berzins stopped 39 of 44 shots for Latvia (0-2-0).

The Canadians broke out with a three-goal performance in the second but found themselves in trouble in the final frame due to a series of undisciplined penalties.

Latvia got nine seconds of five-on-three play midway through the third when Greig was called for hooking after Kent Johnson had already been sent to the box for delay of game.

The Canadians weathered being down two men and Cossa preserved the advantage with a collection of timely stops.

Earlier in the period, Latvia cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power play after Greig was called for tripping.

Just four seconds into the man advantage, Hodas — a Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman — ripped a shot off from the top of the faceoff circle, sailing the puck over Cossa’s pad.

Dufour gave the Canadians some breathing room with 5:16 to go in the third period. The New York Islanders prospect collected a slick pass from Greig and sent a quick shot in past Berzins to give his side a 5-2 lead.

Greig capped a big middle frame by collecting a pass from Dufour along the boards for an odd-man rush and streaking up the ice, using one arm to hold back Latvia’s Peteris Purmalis. With his free hand, the Ottawa Senators prospect poked the puck in past Berzins at the 17:16 mark to give Canada a 4-1 lead.

“It was a pretty lucky bounce,” Greig said. “And the tracker was right on me so I just tried to get it on net with one (hand).”

A power-play goal gave the Canadians a three-goal lead after Latvia captain Ralfs Bergmanis was called for slashing.

Bedard set up the play with a no-look backwards pass to Zellweger at the blue line. The defenceman wound up and fired a rocket through traffic, finding the back of the net 16:17 into the second.

Minutes earlier, Cormier scored with the man advantage after Dans Locmelis was called for roughing.

Joshua Roy calmed a bouncing puck and dished it to Cormier, who sent it sailing past Berzins from the top of the faceoff circle.

Canada’s power play looked to be in trouble on its first attempt of the tournament earlier in the period.

The man advantage saw Cossa nearly send a puck into his own net while trying to clear and Johnson come within inches of scoring an own goal. The host nation turned the puck over multiple times and Latvia registered a pair of short-handed shots.

“That was just to give the fans their money’s worth,” Cameron said.

“That was at the time where we were in their zone for a period of time five on five and we thought that was going to carry over into the power play and we got too comfortable and we thought it was going to be easy.

“We stalled in our execution and hats off to Latvia, they didn’t give up.”

The Canadians went 2 for 4 on the power play Wednesday and Latvia was 1 for 5.

Canada kept Berzins busy across the first period, outshooting Latvia 18-4.

The host nation dominated play but Latvia scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in the opening frame. Darzins chipped a shot up and over Cossa stick side to make it 1-1.

Bedard opened the scoring 7:31 into the game, blasting a shot through a pair of Latvian defenders and over Berzins’ glove from the top of the slot.

With a different roster than the December tournament and a short training camp, Canada is still trying to build chemistry as the world juniors get underway, Cossa said.

“We’ve been practising but nothing’s really game speed,” he said. “So it was nice getting into the game now and just kind of fix things coming up here, practice and get ready for the rest of the games.”

Earlier Wednesday, Winnipeg Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson scored twice as Sweden (1-0-0) took a 3-2 victory over Switzerland (0-1-0) in Group B play.

In the final game of the day, Germany (1-0-1) defeated Austria (0-0-1) 4-2 for its first win of the tournament.

The Canadians will continue round-robin action Thursday when they take on Slovakia (0-0-1).

NOTES: Greig turned 20 on Monday. The world juniors are a showcase of the best under-20 players across the globe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation has allowed athletes born in 2002 who have already turned 20 to play in this summer’s championship. … Cossa was playing on familiar ice, having helped the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL championship in June. … Canada’s goal song is “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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World food crisis prompts rise in child marriages: Canadian aid agencies

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OTTAWA — Canadian aid agencies are warning that the world food crisis, made worse by the war in Ukraine, is leading to a rise in underage girls being forced into marriage.

Plan International Canada says it has seen a worrying increase in the number of teenage girls in the developing world being forced into marriage because their families cannot afford to feed them.

The agency says 12 million girls under the age of 18 become child brides each year, forcing them to abandon school while putting their health at risk through early pregnancies. 

It warns a 15 per cent decrease in child marriages over the past decade is now in reverse, with the problem acute in countries such as South Sudan, Niger, Mali, Chad and Bangladesh, a major importer of Ukrainian wheat. 

World Vision says in Afghanistan, where over 22 million people are going hungry, girls are being pulled from school and married off, including into violent homes, because their families can’t afford to feed them. 

Tanjina Mirza, chief programs officer at Plan International Canada, says the rise in food insecurity is exposing more girls to forced marriage and child labour to ease the burden on struggling families. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 10, 2022. 

The Canadian Press

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