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Province 'not just open for summer, but it's also open for good,” says Kenney

Despite the Open for Summer slogan, Alberta will not have restrictions come back in the fall, Kenney said.
Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney declares COVID-19 a public health emergency on March 17, 2020. Kenney addressed concerns about his summer reopening plan during a roundtable meeting with weekly newspapers on June 11. GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA/Photo

Premier Jason Kenney remains optimistic we are heading into an Alberta renaissance.

“We are incredibly optimistic about emerging from this, not just regaining what we lost economically during the global COVID recession and the energy-price collapse last year, but also regaining what we lost in the past five years,” he said.

On June 11, Kenney met with members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) to discuss the Open for Summer plan.

During the hour-long meeting, Kenney answered a variety of questions on issues such as rural vaccination rates, vaccine hesitancy, and concerns about variant strains of the virus.

In response to a question about low vaccination rates in rural areas in southern Alberta, Kenney said we may have the lowest level of first doses, but we have the highest level of second doses.

“We as a province made a decision to go deeper on the second doses back in the winter than the other provinces did. We covered more of our seniors and vulnerable people with second-dose vaccines … we're approaching 80-per-cent, second-dose full-vaccination coverage of Albertans over the age of 75, well ahead of other provinces,” he said.

Kenney speculated about the reason vaccination rates are lower in rural areas, including misinformation and a tendency for young men to imagine they are immune to any kind of sickness.

“Younger, healthy people are pretty much unaffected by COVID, but they need to understand that if they're not vaccinated, they can still transmit it to other people,” he said.

As for the safety of the vaccine, Kenney said the province has administered about 3.2 million doses and has recorded fewer than 500 adverse events.

"Most of those are things like nausea – they're relatively minor. Only one fatality out of 3.2 million doses administered … we're talking about 99.99-per-cent safety on these vaccines,” he said.

Kenney was asked about outbreak situations in which people who had received the vaccine still got the virus. He said that although it is still possible to get infected after being vaccinated, that possibility goes down dramatically, as do the negative outcomes.

“The data is clear that about the efficacy of these vaccines, about 98 per cent of the people who've been hospitalized for COVID this year are people who had not been vaccinated,” he said.

Although he admitted that processes for clinic trials of COVID-19 vaccines had been sped up, Kenney refuted the notion the vaccine has not had long-term large-scale trials.

“We now have real-world experience. There's been, I understand, over two billion doses administered around the world,” he said.

Kenney was also asked about variant strains of the virus and what he would say to business owners who are concerned about being shut down again in the fall with the potential spike in cases as is seen with respiratory viruses.

Kenney said by September, the province should have at least 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, which means those people will have over 90 per cent immunity against significant negative outcomes from the variant.

“Vaccines move us to a totally different place.

“The very simple answer is this, the more people who get vaccinated, the safer we will be in the future with seasonal spikes and new variants,” he said.

Despite the Open for Summer slogan, Alberta will not have restrictions come back in the fall, Kenney said.

“We are absolutely confident and confident about the science behind the vaccines. And this is not just open for summer, but it's also open for good.”

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