Alberta's top doctor says new strain of COVID-19 identified in the U.K. may not be 'dramatically different'

Elisabetta Bianchini
·3 min read
COVID-19 in Canada
COVID-19 in Canada

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, commented on the new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 detected in the U.K., indicating that it may not be as significant as some may assume.

“We’ve had a few reports of different genetic alterations of mutation in COVID-19 and so far, there’s not been any evidence that these mutations are as dramatically different...as, for example, the influenza virus, which we know mutates very quickly and mutates dramatically,” Dr. Hinshaw explained. “But it is too early to know exactly what implications it may have or if, as we’ve seen in some of the other slight genetic alteration, it is not a significant issue with respect to how it interacts with the population.”

Alberta’s top doctor did stress that officials are still closely watching for developments and new information on this virus variant.

Will COVID-19 vaccines be safe?

For anyone who still has concerns about possibility receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or another vaccine candidate, Dr. Hinshaw highlighted that Canada has “one of the most robust regulatory systems for new vaccines in the world” and when available, everyone should be immunized.

“When it is your turn please get immunized,” she said. “It is an act of kindness for yourself, for your loved ones and for your community.”

“I believe the benefits of vaccine far outweigh the risks and this vaccine will save lives. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections.”

Could we run out of vaccine?

In terms of vaccine prioritization, the first phase of Alberta’s vaccine roll out is targeted to healthcare workers who care for those at highest risk of severe outcome from COVID-19, individuals in long-term care homes, Albertans over the age of 75 and individuals in Indigenous communities over the age of 65.

Phase two of the vaccine distribution plan would include first responders and other frontline professionals, which is expected to begin in April 2021.

Dr. Hinshaw said there may be a circumstance where some of the doses the province received will have to be held back when they arrive to ensure that each person who is immunized is able to get their second dose. Two injections are required for the both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be effective.

“That question of running out, we know that there is worldwide demand for these vaccines, we know that Canada has advanced agreements with many different vaccine manufacturers and so we are watching and waiting to see what the outcomes are,” she said. “We anticipate...that we will be able to offer all Albertans this vaccine.”

“The questions is of course timing, and that is one that we will need to wait and see how that rolls out.”

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