Kenney directs legal team to investigate provincial vaccine procurement

By Catherine Griwkowsky January 12, 2021

Premier Jason Kenney warned the province will run out of Covid vaccine doses within a week, and has directed his legal team to see if the province can purchase other vaccines on the market without waiting for the federal government to procure them.

Aside from Pfizer and Moderna’s already-approved inoculations, five other vaccines are moving through Health Canada’s approval process. Ottawa has pre-ordered tens of millions of doses of each of them.

But Premier Kenney said there are other vaccines on the market that Alberta should be taking a look at.

“I’ve asked our legal folks to look at, if the federal government is not going to procure other vaccines that go to market, whether provincial governments can do so on their own,” he said Monday. “We are prepared to go as long as it takes in terms of our investment in this if we can accelerate more vaccines here in Alberta. Because, as I say, very shortly our capacity to administer these vaccines will outstrip the projected supply.”

Kenney is not alone among premiers pushing Ottawa for more rapid vaccine deployment — but he is the first to suggest his province could go it alone on the procurement process.

“We need more doses, bottom line,” Kenney said.

Alberta now has the capacity to deliver 50,000 doses per week and is aiming for a stretch capacity of 200,000 weekly by March.

“We are taking care of Albertans,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro told reporters yesterday. “We are a model for the rest of Canada.”

Roughly 70 per cent of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to kick in, according to chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

When Covid testing was at a low capacity last April, the premier also declared his willingness to circumvent Health Canada.

“I have directed our officials to consider use of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, or medications that have been approved by the high standards of at least one credible peer country’s drug agency,” such as the US Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Agency, he tweeted at the time. Ultimately, Alberta did not approve any of its own tests or treatments.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the premier should take a step back from delivering vaccine messaging and stop playing politics with Ottawa.

“The best thing Jason Kenney can do to rebuild trust with Albertans is to remove himself as the face of the vaccine program, and allow Albertans to hear directly from the Vaccine Task Force,” Notley said in a news release.

She called on the government to publish daily vaccine progress updates, including for high-risk populations.

Vaccine rollout plan detailed, Phase 1 expanded
With the province set to wrap up first doses for long-term care residents by the end of this week, paramedics and emergency medical response workers, including air ambulance employees, will now also be eligible for shots within Phase 1.

According to the federal government, Alberta received 42,900 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 16,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine, as of January 7, for a total of 59,800. Another 13,650 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 17,100 from Moderna were expected to be distributed to the province on Sunday..

Alberta is expected to get another 24,375 doses of the Pfizer shot weekly during the rest of January, ramping up to 42,900 doses per week through February.

A further 17,100 Moderna doses are expected by January 17, followed by 24,600 doses in the first week of February and 26,900 by the end of the month.