CALGARY -- Close to 17,000 Moderna vaccines arrived in Alberta Tuesday as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to decline.

Premier Jason Kenney delivered the news in Calgary, announcing 879 new cases, and 26 deaths.

Kenney said the 16,900 Moderna vaccines would be administered in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, St. Paul and Fort Saskatchewan, saying that because Moderna vaccines can be stored at more moderate temperatures than the Pfizer vaccine, it was the "ideal vaccine" to transport to more remote areas.

Kenney also conceded the province won't vaccinate 29,000 health workers by the end of December, saying an Alberta Health Service policy limited the amount of vaccines that could be administered.

Kenney said that AHS held back a number of vaccines, reserving them for second doses to be administered to frontline workers who had already received a first shot.

Some have been critical of the province's efforts at immunization.

Shandro had earlier said the province's goal was to immunize 29,000 health-care workers by the end of the year, but in a statement issued Monday, Kenney said more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine dose, with just three days remaining to meet the goal.

"AHS decided to exercise great caution in holding them back for the second dose," he said. "But the COVID cabinet committee decided to do what other provinces have been doing," adding that the province plans to administer over 4,000 vaccines in the next  two to three days, including New Year's Day."

The number of active cases of COVID-19 fell in Alberta for the 15th straight day, dropping to 14,785.

Tyler Shandro

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the numbers were promising.

"This is a real improvement," Shandro said. "We are at a turning point in the pandemic, but only if we stick with it.

"We've slowed the pandemic and are starting to turn it back."

Moderna vaccines

On Monday, the province reported close to 4,500 new cases and 112 new deaths due to COVID-19 over the previous five days.

The province reported 4,488 new cases between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27 with 917 of them recorded Sunday.

The number of active cases fell each of the past five days and stood at 15,487 on Monday, though testing volume has also fallen significantly over the holiday period. 

Despite the lower case numbers, both hospitalizations and deaths continued to rise.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 890 Albertans being treated for the coronavirus in hospital, including 153 in intensive care units. Both of those numbers are pandemic highs.