EDMONTON -- Having immunized 70 per cent of its eligible population with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Alberta will lift public health restrictions in two weeks, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday.

"Yesterday, Alberta officially surpassed the 70 per cent vaccination threshold to trigger Stage 3 of Alberta's 'Open for Summer' plan with 70.2 per cent of Albertans receiving their first vaccine dose," he said.

"We did it. You did it."

The premier thanked health care workers and congratulated Albertans on the achievement, saying he never doubted Albertans would "get 'er done in a true Alberta spirit." 

"Thanks to vaccines and the millions of Albertans who have been protected by them, we finally have the upper hand on this virus and can safely open up our province," he said, speaking from a river valley viewpoint overlooking downtown Edmonton. 

"So mark it on the calendar, folks, on July 1, Alberta isn't just open for summer, but I believe it'll be open for good." 

Some COVID-19 rules will remain in place after July 1, such as isolation requirements for confirmed COVID-19 cases and preventative measures in care settings. 

"As we approach July 1, I think that Dr. Hinshaw may be making some recommendations for example, limited mask use in certain contexts like…long-term care, continuing care settings, hospitals. She may have some other workplaces where that is called for. She and the department of health are working on a package in that respect," Kenney said.

ACCELERATING SECOND DOSE APPOINTMENTS

As well, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the next stage of second-dose eligibility to those who got their first dose in May, which he said was 11 days earlier than planned. 

That makes another 1.1 million Albertans eligible for a second dose. 

Those who received a first dose in June can book their second four weeks after they got their first shot. 

"We are leading the country on second doses," Kenney said. "We're going to be hitting 25 per cent second-dose coverage by the end of this week. I think we'll be pushing 40 per cent second-dose inoculation by around Canada Day."

Following Thursday's advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that anyone who received a first AstraZeneca dose should get an mRNA vaccine for their second shot, like himself, Shandro reminded Albertans the choice in brand is theirs. 

However, he said evidence suggests it is best to book the second dose eight weeks after recieving the first AstraZeneca shot: "I want to emphasize that's not because of any concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine or because of supply or anything else, it's because it actually works better if you give it a little longer between those doses." 

Both he and Kenney reminded Albertans two out of three $1-million prizes in Alberta's vaccine lottery require proof of full immunization to be claimed. 

"First doses have been our ticket out of this pandemic, but second doses will make sure there's no return journey into it," Kenney said.