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Alberta

Three quarters of Albertans are double vaccinated. Province launches third booster shot.

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Vaccine eligibility expands, milestone hit

More than 75 per cent of eligible Albertans are now fully immunized against COVID-19 while thousands more Albertans are now eligible for a third COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Starting Oct. 6, Albertans age 75 and older and First Nations, Inuit and Métis people age 65 and older can begin booking for a third dose at least six months after their second dose.

Acting on the recommendations of the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization, Alberta is one of the first provinces in Canada to offer third doses of vaccine to these age groups. Older Albertans, along with those who are immunocompromised or in seniors supportive living, are receiving third doses because of their increased risk of hospitalization, death or other severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Health officials will continue to monitor all emerging evidence on vaccine effectiveness across Canada and around the world.

“We are pleased to offer additional protection for those Albertans who are most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated is not only important to help protect yourself and others, but is also vital to protecting our health-care system.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“We know that COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for our older populations and continue to do everything we can to keep them safe. Over three-quarters of eligible Albertans are now fully immunized. I encourage everyone to think of their family, friends and neighbours and get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“The data shows that seniors may experience waning immunity approximately six months after their second dose. A third dose will be beneficial for our elderly population to ensure they have the best protection from COVID-19 as we move through this fourth wave. At this time, the evidence does not support a need for additional doses for the general population, but we continue to monitor the data and will adapt as new evidence emerges.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

Double dose milestone hit

Currently, 75.1 per cent of eligible Albertans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after receiving two vaccine doses.

In addition, 84.5 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose. More than 500,000 first, second and third doses have been administered since Sept. 3.

All eligible Albertans are strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated soon as possible to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

Albertans eligible for third doses

In addition to Albertans aged 75 and older, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 65 and older, third doses are available for seniors living in congregate care. These individuals are at the highest risk of severe outcomes and potential spread within congregate living sites, and will receive their doses on-site.

A number of immunocompromising conditions also qualify for an additional dose at least eight weeks after a second dose. For a full list, visit alberta.ca/vaccine.

Additional mRNA doses are also available to Albertans who are travelling to a jurisdiction that does not accept visitors who have been vaccinated with Covishield/AstraZeneca or mixed doses.

Anyone in the general population who receives a complete two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series can be confident that they have strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.

Booking a third-dose appointment

Eligible Albertans aged 75 and older and First Nations, Metis and Inuit persons living off-reserve can book appointments for third doses at participating pharmacies and physician clinics by using the booking system at alberta.ca/vaccine. Albertans can also call 811, participating pharmacies or participating physicians’ offices, or find a community pharmacy providing walk-in vaccinations.

Individuals aged 65 and older who live on a First Nations reserve will be able to access third doses through local public health clinics on-reserve.

If you are deemed ineligible due to your age, or six months has not passed since receiving your second dose, you will be asked to re-book when eligible.

Outdoor gathering restrictions

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, an updated public health measure will apply to all outdoor private social gatherings effective Oct. 6:

  • Outdoor private social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 20 people, with two-metre physical distancing between households at all times. This is a decrease from the previous limit of 200 attendees.
  • All other previously public health measures remain in place at this time.
  • Additional information on all the public health measures is available at alberta.ca/covid19.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

'I knew the challenges': Lethbridge police chief aware of problems before taking job

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — It’s been a particularly tough year for the police chief of Alberta’s third-largest city

But Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh says he was fully aware of the problems before he took the top job in July 2020.

“I knew the challenges in this department and in this city, and a lot of these events that are bringing a lot of bad press to this department,” Mehdizadeh said in a sit-down interview with The Canadian Press. “I didn’t come to this with blind eyes.”

The police service has faced numerous controversies in recent years. 

Last year, two officers were temporarily demoted after a review determined NDP provincial legislature member Shannon Phillips, while environment minister in 2017, was surveilled and photographed at a diner. The officers involved were concerned about changes Phillips was making regarding off-highway vehicles at nearby wilderness areas. 

Separately, five officers and one civilian were investigated on allegations of conducting improper database searches on Phillips while she was in cabinet.

The force was also criticized in May 2020 for the violent takedown of a citizen wearing a “Star Wars” storm trooper costume and brandishing a toy laser blaster. An independent review said the officers had not acted inappropriately.

“There were some events that have really put a lot of negative publicity on this organization,” said Mehdizadeh, “but a lot of these events … range from 2016 to 2018, and any recent allegations are being tied to the historic events.

“As a result we have many investigations.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu ordered the Lethbridge Police Service to clean up its act or risk being dissolved. He demanded an action plan to address everything from recruiting to oversight to changing the department’s internal culture.

“If I concluded that the leadership of the force and the commission were not serious about fixing the problem, I was prepared to do what was necessary to fix the problem,” Madu said earlier this week.

“They came back to me with an action plan that was acceptable and I approved.”

Madu said he will wait to see what a public inquiry by the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board turns up before he decides how successful the changes have been. 

He noted that he doesn’t blame the current chief.

“Let me be blunt … I think it stems from the previous leadership there,” said Madu. “I am very sympathetic to the current chief.

“He was brought in during the midst of these problems. None of these problems are part of his watch. This is a problem that he inherited.”

The president of the Lethbridge Police Association said the problems that became public were years in the making.

“It’s been miserable for us for more than the past year. I think what most people don’t understand is what they’re seeing now is predicated on things that came before. Nothing happens in a vacuum,” said Jay McMillan.

“Many of our own internal issues were born of an era where there was different leadership in place, or a lack of leadership. It sort of created a culture here that was not healthy and probably not able to withstand any external pressures.”

McMillan said most of the controversies don’t reflect the service now. He supports the changes outlined in the provincial action plan, he said.

“You’re able to look in the mirror as an organization or an individual and identify some things you can do a little bit better,” he said.

“A lot of the things in that action plan were things that were set up to take place already, so it wasn’t in response to the public attention. It wasn’t in response to the justice minister … the organization had already realized there were some changes that needed to be made.”

Mehdizadeh said his job is to “fix these things.”

“This is very historic stuff and it wasn’t fair to really judge the organization based on what went on a few years ago,” he said.

“I don’t have the authority to make arbitrary decisions to get rid of people or fire people. There are legal processes that we have to adhere to, that we have to be respectful of and compliant to move forward.”

Sanctions have been taken against a number of officers as a result of the circulation of inappropriate images, reportedly including pictures of senior staff pasted onto the bodies of characters from the animated “Toy Story” movies. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Federal minister to provide money to fight aquatic invasive species in mountain parks

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BANFF, Alta. — Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is expected to announce funding today to fight aquatic invasive species in five mountain national parks in Alberta and British Columbia.

Guilbeault, who is scheduled to be in Banff, Alta., plans to make almost $15 million available over the next five years to prevent and manage invasive species in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Yoho national parks.

The money is to be used for both prevention and education programs.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says the parks are vulnerable to non-native species of mussels as well as the parasite that causes whirling disease in fish.

Invasive species can be spread by people enjoying mountain rivers and lakes.

The work is also expected to support the recovery of species at risk, including westslope cutthroat trout, Athabasca rainbow trout and bull trout.

Guilbeault is in Banff after spending Friday in Calgary meeting with oil industry representatives and Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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