EDMONTON â€” Premier Jason Kenney is urging the federal government to push hard to bring surplus COVID-19 vaccines in from the United States.
Kenney says he has spoken with regional governors who are stymied by an American export ban on shipping doses over the border.
“I've asked Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau to please lobby the U.S. government to relax the export restrictions (on vaccines),” Kenney told reporters Friday.
“It makes no sense for our neighbours and regional states to be sitting on doses that we cannot use.
"One state in particular has reached out and another has expressed a willingness to offer us doses,” he added.
“These are both states in the region. They have close economic ties.
“They see what's going on in Alberta.”
In the meantime, Kenney said some Albertans have travelled south of the border to get inoculated and urged anyone else who can to do so.
“If Albertans are down south for whatever reason and they want to get a jab, I think they can pretty easily do so in most of the United States,” he said.
“I know a lot of snowbirds and others who have done just that.”
Kenney made the pitch to Trudeau this week when the prime minister called to offer any additional resources to help Alberta stem its surge of cases. Kenney’s office said the response was that no extra federal help is needed at this time.
Kenney also announced that starting Monday, Alberta truckers entering Montana to deliver goods will be eligible to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine without an appointment at a rest stop in Conrad, about 80 kilometres south of the border.
Kenney said about 800 trucks cross the border every day. It is similar to deals struck with North Dakota and Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Montana is providing the surplus vaccine and paying for the program.
Kenney's government is banking on new restrictions and ramped up vaccines to reverse a surge in COVID-19 cases in Alberta that threaten to buckle the health system in weeks and force doctors to decide which critically ill patients get care and which don't.
Alberta is approaching 25,000 active cases and, on Thursday, the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said it's not clear whether this third wave has crested.
More than 1.7 million Albertans have so far received at least one vaccine dose. Kenney has announced that expected additional supplies will allow everyone as young as 12 to soon get inoculated.
Those as young as 30 can now book their appointments and those as young as 12 can do so Monday. At that point, 3.8 million Albertans will be eligible out of a total population of 4.4 million.
Kenney said the province has received 350,000 doses this week, is expecting 271,000 next week and 357,000 doses the week after that.
Also Friday, all kindergarten to Grade 12 students began learning online. It is part of the restrictions announced Wednesday by Kenney.
Outdoor gatherings have been halved to five people from a maximum of 10. Indoor gatherings remain banned. There are sharper restrictions on business customer capacity and worship services.
On Sunday, barber shops, hair salons and other personal wellness service establishments must close.
Kenney has also promised renewed enforcement, particularly after hundreds of Albertans defied health rules last weekend to host a maskless "No More Lockdowns" protest rodeo near Bowden in central Alberta.
This week, the Whistle Stop CafÃ© in Mirror in central Alberta was shut down by officials for refusing to follow health rules, including a ban on indoor dining.
The restaurant has been advertising an outdoor protest rally this weekend. The province has gone to court to get a pre-emptive injunction to stop the event on the grounds it will break public health rules.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press