The new Battle of Alberta? Vaccine uptake higher around Edmonton than Calgary
EDMONTON -- Without a hockey game for a few days to challenge each other, the mayors of Alberta's largest cities have entered a COVID-19 Battle of Alberta.
The province recently began publishing more detailed data on its COVID-19 vaccine program. Now, Alberta Health publicly reports supply levels, distribution progress, and even regional and age demographic breakdowns.
Edmonton mayor Don Iveson challenged his Calgary counterpart Naheed Nenshi Monday evening, suggesting they use the data for a "friendly Battle of Alberta on vaccination uptake."
The contest isn't quite limited to the rival cities, but draws in surrounding municipalities within their health zone.
The Edmonton health zone -- which extends west past Evansburg and as far south as Leduc -- has seen 28.3 per cent of people receive at least one dose.
In the Calgary health zone -- including Banff, Airdrie, and Claresholm at its south boundary -- has seen 25.2 per cent of its population receive at least one dose.
"We're ahead by 3.1 per cent after the first period," Iveson noted.
The number of people who are fully immunized with two doses are 6.7 and 5.7 per cent, respectively.
LESS THAN A QUARTER OF ALBERTA'S 40-YEAR-OLDS ARE VACCINATED: DATA
According to Alberta Health's data -- current as of April 25 -- more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province. About 25.6 per cent of Albertans have received at least one dose, while 6.1 per cent have received two.
While vulnerable Albertans and health care workers have been prioritized for vaccine, one product -- the Oxford-AstraZeneca -- is available to those as young as 40. Vaccine uptake in the 55-59 age group is just 41 per cent, 30 per cent in 50-54, 25 per cent in 45-49, and 23 per cent in people aged 40-44.
"The good news is there seems to be growing enthusiasm about the vaccines, and we're even seeing a slight decrease in the skepticism around AstraZeneca," said Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.
He pointed to the prevalence of "vaxxies" -- or so called vaccine selfies -- and called them a promising sign.
"There is a tremendous science communication challenge around these vaccines when you have these incredibly rare -- and we have to emphasize they are very rare -- adverse events for something like the AstraZeneca vaccine compared to the millions of data points. We have to be transparent, we need to be honest about these adverse events, but we also need to be clear about the risk-benefit ratio," he commented.
"Research tells us that a dramatic anecdote, a dramatic narrative, like an adverse event can overwhelm people's scientific thinking, and I think that's exactly what is happening in this context."
A recent poll by Angus Reid found confidence in the Oxford-AstraZeneca product jumped 11 points in just two weeks when provinces increased the age eligibility. Now, 52 per cent of those eligible would get the shot, according to Angus Reid.
However, the opinion poll found hesitancy remains highest across Canada in Alberta. Here, Angus Reid found 28 per cent still remain unsure or opposed to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Saskatchewan and Manitoba trail behind at 22 and 20 per cent, respectively.
Caulfield expects hesitancy will become a bigger issue as vaccine rollout continues.
Vaccine uptake has ranged from 80 to almost 85 per cent in people over the age of 70, the numbers show, and between 54 and 77 per cent amongst 60 to 74-year-olds.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Touria Izri