Vaccines save lives

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Throughout the COVID pandemic, Alberta’s government has made it clear that our ability to return to normal depends on getting as many people in our province vaccinated as possible.

The more Albertans get vaccinated, the sooner we can protect our communities, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and remove restrictions.

On April 19, Alberta’s government announced that Albertans aged 40 and older will be eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Participating pharmacies and Alberta Health Services will begin booking appointments for Albertans born in 1981 or earlier and walk-in vaccinations will be available at the walk-in clinics in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as specific pharmacies across Alberta.

This decision to lower the age of eligibility means that 575,425 more Albertans can be vaccinated and that the total eligible population in Alberta will reach 2.3 million.

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I understand that many Albertans are concerned with the risk of vaccine-induced blood clots, however, these blood clots are extremely rare while the vaccine helps prevent the much higher risks that come from COVID-19 infection. The global frequency of the rare blood clot disorder known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) has been estimated at approximately one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine.

To put this in perspective, Albertans 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a one in 200 chance of dying from that infection and they are at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than experiencing VITT after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This AstraZeneca vaccine is an effective vaccine that all every eligible Albertan can feel safe receiving, and Alberta’s government is proud to lead by example. Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, numerous cabinet ministers, MLAs in both parties, and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw have received their first dose AstraZeneca vaccine and none of them have experience blood clotting.

Albertans are eager for restrictions to be lifted. We all want kids to play hockey again, for houses of worship to host full congregations, and for everything we took for granted before COVID to return. I know it is frustrating to see hockey arenas and baseball stadiums in the United States full of cheering fans. Canadians could be filling our own stadiums if Ottawa had secured an adequate supply of vaccines in January and February.

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The best thing Albertans can do now is to get their vaccines as soon as possible. Distributing safe vaccines like AstraZeneca’s is a critical component of our ability to reopen our province and I encourage every Albertan to do their part and get the jab.

In local news, a tragic fire that occurred last Saturday burnt down six businesses. Among them was K-Lee Boutique and Kristen Lang, the store owner, estimates her losses at $300,000, as previously reported by The News in the April 27 edition. However, some amazing local support has come to her aid. The store’s website received a free update from one of Kristen’s friends. Keylime Athletic Wear, located on Broadmoor Boulevard, has offered to be a pick-up location for K-Lee purchases and High Fitness will be holding fundraiser Zoom events as well as small capacity outdoor classes in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove to help Kristen recover. I am incredibly proud and humbled to represent the generous and hard-working people who made all this happen.

The owner of Heritage Dry Cleaners, Miguel Hechavarria, has received a $10,000 grant from the Desjardins Insurance GoodSpark Small Business Grants program on Wednesday, April 14. This grant was much needed and has helped Miguel to keep his doors open amid the difficulty he has faced because of COVID-19 over the past year. Even with this grant, Miguel is struggling and needs all the local support he can get. So if you’re in need of dry cleaning, I’d go check out Heritage Dry Cleaners.

As always, it remains a privilege to serve as the MLA for Sherwood Park.

Jordan Walker is the Member of the Legislature Assembly for the Sherwood Park constituency. If you have any questions or comments about this column or any other provincial issues, he would like to hear from you. Please contact Walker’s constituency officer at 780-417-4747 or by email sherwood.park@assembly.ab.ca.

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