CALGARY -- Alberta residents in long-term continuing care facilities will begin receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

The first inoculations come as the shots were approved by Health Canada just over one week ago, on Dec. 23.

Alberta received its initial shipment of 16,900 Moderna doses on Tuesday, which will be administered to the province’s most vulnerable groups such as senior citizens who are amongst the highest risk. 

Moderna’s shot does not require the same deep-freeze storage as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, meaning it is much easier to transport to continuing care facilities.

The vaccine will be delivered to sites in Calgary, St. Paul, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Edmonton and will be offered to residents in continuing care facilities in those communities.

Moderna doses will also be offered to residents at six First Nation congregate living facilities on reserve. A provincial depot will additionally receive vaccine to ship out doses to rural and remote communities in the province.

Residents in continuing care homes account for about two-thirds of Alberta’s 1,028 COVID-19 deaths, which is why Premier Jason Kenney says this vaccine is a strong step forward in the fight against the virus.

Premier Jason Kenney posted on social media that the first vaccines were delivered at Riverview Care Centre in Medicine Hat.

“The arrival of Moderna in the province is another sign of hope and as more vaccines arrive, we will ensure Albertans who wish to be vaccinated are immunized as quickly as possible when they are eligible,” Kenney said.

“Everyone who wants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to when their turn arrives.”

Sheila Vedeer, 63, was Alberta's first long-term care resident to recieve the vaccine, and was excited to the the first.

"I found out yesterday. (I was) just nervous, nervous but exhilirated at the same time," Vedeer said.

While the first long-term care resident vaccine provides hope, Vedeer is hoping Albertans stay vigilant and protect each other.

"There's a lot of good people who don’t deserve to come down with it, because of irresponsibilities put down on them because of the selfishness thinking, 'nothing will happen to me', that stupid attitude," she said.

"We've got a 100 year old woman here, turning 101 next month. I'd hate to see her come down with it."

The province says more doses of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive in early January, exclusively for long-term care residents, seniors on First Nation reserves and frontline healthcare workers.

Phase 2 of Alberta’s vaccine rollout is slated to begin in April, however it is not yet known who will be next in line to receive it. 

Phase 3 will involve rolling out vaccinations to the general Alberta population, which is anticipated to start later in 2021.

Enhanced supports for long-term care homes

As outbreaks in continuing care facilities show no signs of slowing, the province is hoping to prevent spread of virus and protect those most at risk with additional supports. 

The UCP government has announced it will begin deploying additional mobile rapid testing units that can produce results within minutes. 

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says 3,000 comfort care aids will also be hired to boost the continuing care workforce. 

Shandro adds that a health facility review launched last year will not also include pandemic-related data from the past 10 months. 

The outcome and recommendations from the review will be applied to new legislations and be used to make decisions on funding and the development or upgrading of existing care facilities.