Respiratory therapist at University of Alberta Hospital the first Albertan to receive the COVID-19 vaccination


Wednesday December 16, 2020 “By Anna Junker, Lauren Boothby – Sahra Kaahiye says she is ‘grateful’ to be one of the first health-care workers in Alberta to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Sahra Kaahiye, a respiratory therapist at the University of Alberta Hospital, says being the first Albertan to receive a COVID-19 vaccination felt like a “historic” moment.

“I felt honored and very grateful to be part of this entire experience. … When I woke up this morning I wasn’t expecting to be the first person in Alberta to get the injection,” she said Tuesday.

Health-care workers in the province’s two largest cities received the first vaccinations around 4 p.m. Tuesday before Premier Jason Kenney spoke at the government’s COVID-19 update.

Reached Tuesday evening, Kaahiye said it was just like getting any other shot. But unlike when she gets the flu vaccine, she didn’t feel any heaviness, numbness, or pain in her arm.

She hopes that, as the Chair of the Somali Canadian Women and Children Association, she can lead by example, and help set others’ minds at ease that getting the vaccine is safe when it becomes more widely available.

“Unfortunately misinformation has abounded throughout this entire pandemic, and now that the vaccine is available, there’s lots of misinformation about the vaccine as well,” Kaahiye said.

“I feel like it’s so easy for the marginalized communities, such as my own, to kind of get lost in the cracks … of public health. And for me to be able to be out there, visibly getting this, and then they’ll continue to see me be out there and fine, I hope this will promote it a little bit more within my community, and others.”

Originally, the vaccination rollout was scheduled for Wednesday. It was accelerated after the first 3,900 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech arrived in Calgary, at about 5 p.m. Monday.

Another 25,350 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive next week, allowing for 29,000 health-care workers to be vaccinated by the end of the month.

During Tuesday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is working to put together public reporting on COVID-19 immunizations, similar to the reporting of influenza vaccinations.

It will include the number of people who have been immunized with the vaccine in different health zones. Individuals will also get a paper copy when they have been immunized as a record of their vaccination, Hinshaw said.

Alberta reported 1,341 new cases of COVID-19, while 742 people are in hospital, up 26 from Monday. Of those, 137 are in intensive care units, which is an increase of one.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced Tuesday that Canada has signed a contract to receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December.

Deliveries could begin within 48 hours of approval by Health Canada.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said this week the Moderna vaccine would be prioritized for continuing care residents in Alberta.

“It won’t require ultra-cold storage so we hope to get it to the first continuing care residents before Dec. 31,” Shandro said.

High Level to take part in dry-run

Earlier on Tuesday, Shandro said High Level has been selected to take part in a dry-run for Moderna vaccines this week to test deliveries to remote locations.

“The Moderna dry run is expected to take place on December 18 and involves receiving empty vaccine containers that must be kept at -20,” he said on Twitter.

“To be clear, this is a standard process, and the same exercise was undertaken to prepare for the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine.”

When more shipments of vaccines arrive in January, the first phase of immunization will expand to include priority populations including residents of long-term care, designated supportive living facilities, seniors aged 75 and over and First Nations on reserve, Inuit and on-settlement Métis individuals aged 65 and over.