EDMONTON -- Alberta's health minister says the province could soon be announcing an extension of the allowable period between a first and second dose of vaccine, up to as long as 16 weeks. 

Tyler Shandro told reporters Tuesday that the exact period of time between doses was still being decided on but that the government would be announcing the change "soon."

"We will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended," he said. "Obviously, the very first priority for us is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Shandro said the province is being advised by cited "fantastic evidence" from the U.K. as well as Quebec and B.C. that extending the time between doses can help take advantage of a rapidly growing vaccine supply.

"It's going to give us an opportunity to get more people vaccinated more quickly," he said.

Initially recommendations for the wait between vaccine doses was 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna shot. Canada's National Advisory Commitee on Immunization currently lists extended timelines for those vaccines of up to six weeks.

"It stands to reason that you can protect twice as many people in the same period of time if you actually extend the first does, rather than reserve some supplies for the second dose," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger. 

"Most vaccines we don't really see a drop in antibody levels in the short term." 

On Monday, B.C. announced it was extending the time between doses in that province to up to four months

Officials there cited an immune response benefit to lengthening the time between shots.

"The important thing that we've learned is that these vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province's chief medical officer of health. 

"And that protection lasts for many months."