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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

Sergei Bobrovsky has 40-save shutout as Florida Panthers rout Edmonton Oilers 6-0

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EDMONTON — Sergei Bobrovsky made 40 saves for his first shutout of the season as the Florida Panthers defeated the ice-cold Edmonton Oilers 6-0 on Thursday.

Aleksander Barkov scored two goals and added an assist for the Panthers (27-8-5), who improved to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.

Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Sam Bennett and Owen Tippett also scored for Florida.

Mikko Koskinen stopped 22 shots as the Oilers (18-16-2) lost their seventh straight.

Edmonton has a 2-11-2 record in its last 15 games.

There was no scoring in the first period despite Edmonton peppering Bobrovsky with 17 shots.

Koskinen made seven saves in the Edmonton net in the opening frame.

Florida got on the board first, scoring a power-play goal about five-and-a-half minutes into the second period. Sam Reinhart chipped a puck over splayed Oilers defender Darnell Nurse to Barkov, who fired home his 16th of the season. The Oilers have now allowed the first goal of the game in 23 of their last 27 games.

Verhaeghe was left alone in front of the net and unleashed a bullet to the top corner for his 14th goal of the season near the midway point of the game to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

Edmonton outshot Florida 29-13 through 40 minutes.

Barkov added to Florida’s lead seven minutes into the third when his long shot found its way through a screen.

The Panthers made it 4-0 with a power-play goal with four minutes left in the final period as Duclair swatted a loose puck into a wide open net for his 17th of the campaign.

Just over a minute later the Panthers got another power-play goal as Bennett sent a backhand shot off the post and in for his 17th as well.

Edmonton’s end-of-game collapse saw the Panthers score their third goal in 2:36 as Tippett notched his fifth.

Florida plays the third game of a five-stop road trip in Vancouver on Friday, while the Oilers remain home to welcome the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Notes: Florida is now 20-0 when leading after the second period… The Oilers have scored two goals or less in 10 of their last 15 games… Missing from the Florida lineup were Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Gustav Forsling (COVID)… Out for the Oilers were Mike Smith (thumb) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (lower body), as well as Zach Hyman, Kyle Turris and Stuart Skinner (COVID)… With two goalies out for Edmonton, Ilya Konovalov was brought up from the taxi squad to serve as backup to Koskinen.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.

Shane Jones, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Kenney says he was unaware until this week of justice minister’s call to police chief

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EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he didn’t know until this week that his justice minister had called Edmonton’s police chief 10 months earlier about a traffic ticket.

“I do recall at some point last year hearing that minister (Kaycee) Madu had gotten a ticket (and) had paid for it,” Kenney told a news conference Thursday.

“I got fully briefed on all of this, including about the call and the details, on Monday afternoon following media inquiries.

“Shortly thereafter, I called minister Madu to ask what happened from his perspective and why he made this call. I expressed my serious disappointment that he would have done this.”

These were Kenney’s first public comments on the matter since tweeting out late Monday that Madu was being relieved of his justice responsibilities pending an investigation.

Kenney said he plans to hire a third party to determine if there was interference in the administration of justice.

He said the government is drafting terms of reference for the review and has contacted former judges to oversee it.

Critics, including the Opposition NDP, have said the investigation is unnecessary given that all the principals involved, including Madu, agree he made the call to Chief Dale McFee last March.

They said that even though Madu did not try to have McFee cancel the ticket, making such a call violates parliamentary tradition that cabinet ministers don’t intervene directly in the judicial system in matters in which they have a personal stake.

NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir said Kenney has no choice but to fire Madu from his justice post.

Madu has not spoken publicly on the issue, but put out a series of statements this week on social media.

In them, he stressed he did not call the chief to cancel the ticket — a point McFee corroborates — but said he wanted, and received, assurances from McFee that he wasn’t being targeted for the ticket because he is Black or because he was in a high-profile government job.

Kenney, asked by reporters why he hasn’t fired Madu, said the issue is not clear cut. He noted that Madu did not ask for his ticket to be rescinded but did raise concerns about issues such as racial profiling.

“I was not on this call,” said Kenney.

“I think given the issues that have been raised, it is appropriate to allow for a little bit of time for an investigation from somebody with legal training who is impartial to provide me with advice on whether this constituted an effort to interfere with the independent administration of justice.”

Madu, the United Conservatives’ only legislature member in Edmonton, had been justice minister since August 2020. He is serving his first term in the legislature.

On the morning of March 10, he was ticketed for distracted driving for being on a cellphone while behind the wheel in a school zone. He paid the $300 ticket soon after but not before reaching out to McFee.

This issue did not become public until media reports Monday.

Madu, in his statements, has also disagreed with the ticket. He said his phone was in his pocket at the time.

That prompted an angry response Wednesday from Staff Sgt. Mike Elliott, head of the Edmonton Police Association, which represents rank and file officers.

Elliott, on Twitter, questioned Madu’s fitness for the justice job.

“I personally know the member who issued the ticket, and to make an erroneous assumption he was surveilling you is shameful and preposterous,” wrote Elliott.

He said that even if Madu believed he was being unfairly treated, there is a complaint process that should be followed that doesn’t include a direct line to the chief of police.

“The audacity and arrogance is very clear and you are not deserving to be the minister of justice, who is supposed to represent all citizens in a fair and impartial manner.”

Madu’s case is the latest in a string of changes to Kenney’s cabinet in just over a year.

In November, Devin Dreeshen quit as agriculture minister amid concerns over his conduct and drinking.

In September, Tyler Shandro left the health portfolio. Kenney said Shandro asked for the change, citing the gruelling fight against COVID-19 as a factor.

Leela Aheer, the minister for culture, multiculturalism and the status of women, was turfed in July from cabinet after she publicly criticized Kenney for breaking COVID-19 health rules by having a patio dinner outside his temporary penthouse office.

Aheer’s portfolio was carved up and distributed to others. Kenney denied the decision was political payback.

And just over a year ago, in January 2021, Tracy Allard resigned as municipal affairs minister after public outrage over a Christmas holiday trip she took to Hawaii. The trip happened at the same time the government was urging Albertans to stay home and isolate to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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