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Edmonton retirement community residents await COVID-19 vaccine

A stall in vaccine supply means a delay in getting the COVID-19 vaccine to private long term care facilities around the province. Administration of the vaccine to Phase 1 populations remains the priority in coming weeks.
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Touchmark residents await COVID-19 vaccine, earmarked to reach retirement communities in the first phase of distribution. Photo: Touchmark at Wedgewood

Though the province is currently facing shortages of COVID-19 vaccine, supply is expected to return in coming weeks. It can't come soon enough for residents of private care home facilities.

By mid-January, Alberta Health Services has administered nearly 90,000 doses to eligible health care workers and staff and residents in continuing care around the province. First dose vaccinations have wrapped up at all publicly-funded 357 long-term care and designated supportive living in Alberta, and will continue with other priority Phase 1 populations as supply allows.

At Touchmark facilities in Alberta, residents and team members alike await the vaccine, and the turning point it represents in the community, said Touchmark at Wedgewood executive director Cory Brown.

"It's a monumental task with so many moving parts--the health care heroes have a huge undertaking, but we're hopeful and excited for what is to come," said Brown. "We went ten months without a single case of COVID-19, but we know the 'new normal' will still include safety protocols and mask-wearing."

Jan (81) and Al (84) Davey live independently within the Touchmark retirement community, a mix of independent living bungalows, long term care, assisted living and memory care in west Edmonton. The couple is among the approximately 300 residents who've received or are awaiting the first of two shots.

"I definitely will get it, and absolutely, my husband will, and I hope most of my family will. It's extremely important to us. For 10 months, we haven't had dinners or time with family, and we're very much all about family. I can't wait to see my grandchildren. We have always believed in helping our immune systems, and we've never had a problem.

If you look at other vaccines, like smallpox, measles, polio, and others, they have helped a lot of people. We're looking forward to the day when we can say we are back, but we know that will need to happen after our kids and grandkids have theirs. Maybe we'll be able to have a big family barbecue this summer," said Jan.

Ninety-two year-old Touchmark resident Elizabeth Baker recalls receiving the smallpox vaccine at her one-room schoolhouse when she was growing up.

"I don't want to get sick. I think anything we can do to prevent that or lessen the chances, then we should do it, especially seniors. It's not just for myself, though. I would hate to get it and pass it along to someone else. My brother had polio, but he had a mild case of it. We didn't have the vaccine at that time. We lived on a farm, and when the vaccine was available, health nurses came around and gave it to us," she said.

"My mom insisted I get it in my leg so that I wouldn't have a mark on my arm. I used to ride a horse to school, and it was cold, so I had to peel off my tights to get the shot. It's much simpler now. I get the flu shot every fall, and I usually don't get the flu. We're all anxiously waiting for the COVID vaccine. The epidemic doesn't seem to be lessening right now, and everything we can do to help is important."

Health Canada has stated that residents and workers in long-term care, Canadians over 70 years of age, frontline health workers and adults in indigenous communities fall into the priority populations.

AHS reports that Alberta currently has the capacity to deliver 50,000 doses per week. In March, it expects to be able to administer about 200,000 doses per week, as long as supply remains steady.  "We remain undeterred in our efforts to get vaccines to those who need them most," said Premier Jason Kenney.