Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to get your children under five years of age vaccinated against COVID-19.

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

This is good news by any measure, so you would have thought it was an excellent opportunity for a government looking for a new leader and obviously concerned about the outcome of the next election to toot its own horn.

Instead, the Alberta Government chose to announce it on the Friday before a long weekend, the traditional day for “taking out the trash” – that is, making unpopular or embarrassing announcements.

There was no news conference. The news release making the announcement was decidedly low-key.

It was terse, if not quite minimalist – a couple of canned quotes attributed the Health Minister Jason Copping and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, four sentences related to how to book an appointment for your toddler, and two “quick facts.”

You’d almost think they didn’t care you heard about it at all!

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In his quote – obviously written by someone in the ministry’s communications department, not anything the minister actually said conversationally – Mr. Copping steered clear of suggesting parents really ought to get their kids vaccinated. 

“Parents are in the best position to decide whether the vaccination is right for their children, and we are providing them with the information they need to help them make that choice,” he said. The rest, presumably, can be found on YouTube, as parents do their own research. 

Dr. Hinshaw’s words of wisdom were not what one would have expected from a public health expert, either. “While most children are not at high risk of severe outcomes, children under five have higher risks than those age five to 11,” she began. 

At the risk of sounding like an old copy editor, on its own this statement is ambiguous. It’s not immediately clear whether she’s talking about the risk of the vaccine, or the risk of getting COVID, which I presume was her intention. 

Either way, this was hardly a ringing call to get children immunized against the disease. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“I encourage parents and guardians to speak to a trusted health-care provider for questions about their child’s health, including questions about COVID-19 and immunization,” she concluded. Presumably she wouldn’t include a naturopath on her list of trusted health care providers, but you never know. You can’t be too careful these days!

If you want to vaccinate your under-fives, you’ll have to go to AHS, or to a public health clinic if you live on reserve, because pharmacists aren’t licenced to vaccinate kids that young, which seems straightforward enough. 

The quick facts indicated that neither Health Canada nor U.S. health authorities see any problems with the Moderna vaccine, the first to be approved to inoculate toddlers, and that there are 234,000 such kids now eligible for vaccination.

Unmentioned, naturally, is that shots for toddlers have been available for a while in other jurisdictions, but Alberta parents have been made to wait, presumably while the UCP figured out what to do. 

If you you’d just stepped off a space ship from Mars, this would make no sense at all. Having been residing in Alberta and paying occasional attention to media reports, though, it makes perfect sense. 

Sarah Hoffman, NDP health minister from 2015 to 2019 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The governing United Conservative Party is working hard to find a new leader and premier who is even worse than Jason Kenney – who was handed his walking papers in May after the UCP’s leadership review. 

Anyone who had assumed that the UCP members who voted against Mr. Kenney – who turned out to be a pretty bad premier by any objective standard – did so for sensible reasons can now be disabused of that notion. 

No, he wasn’t skidded because he did a terrible job responding to the pandemic, which would be hard to dispute, but because the terrible job he did was still too good for much of the UCP base, which seems to be dominated by anti-vaxxers, vaccine conspiracy theorists, and medical cranks.

The leading candidate to replace him – who definitely would be much worse as premier, as astonishing as that may seem – is former Wildrose leader, talk radio shock jock, COVID and cancer quackery enthusiast, and enemy of the rule of law, Danielle Smith.

Ms. Smith is now setting the agenda for the UCP leadership campaign, and both Brian Jean and Travis Toews, the other two leading candidates, have jumped aboard her anti-vaccine bandwagon.

Other than screeching about freedom – from having to be vaccinated and the Liberal government in Ottawa – the key message from every candidate is, The NDP Must Be Stopped! 

Needless to say, this is not the slogan of a party confident of victory in the next election, whenever it happens.

If the NDP is elected, we could have another four years in which the health care system operates without being in the constant crisis that has characterized it since Ralph Klein became premier in 1992. The only exception to that state of relentless chaos was the four years from 2015 to 2019 when Sarah Hoffman was health minister. 

So, put in context, Friday’s unenthusiastic, intentionally ignorable announcement of vaccine availability for toddlers is entirely on brand for the current debased conservative movement in Alberta. 

In the UCP, the anti-vaxxers are calling the shots! 

After the UCP has finally chosen its next leader on Oct. 6, Mr. Kenney will be entitled to mumble, “I told you so,” as he slouches back to Ottawa.

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24 Comments

  1. Now that it appears that Alberta is looking like it’s about to nose-dive into another Covid outbreak, one wonders if the entire province will have to be quarantined, for Covid and generally awful ideas.

    One thing is for certain, given the attention and apparent support that Danielle Straitjacket is gaining for taking a decidedly unconventional (AKA loony) stance on public health, there can be no doubt that the UCP leadership must see votes in them thar Antivaxxers. Best to keep stuff like vaccinations quiet, because many, many cushy politicos’ jobs may be at stake.

    The sense I get, from those who actually care, is that those who like and perhaps support Danielle Smith are attracted by the notion that she thinks outside the box. I can’t say what the appeal is in the belief that outliers are somehow ‘ahead of the curve’, ‘innovative thinkers’ or ‘pioneers’. Personally, I blame that sociopathic whack job named Steve Jobs for giving such excessive credence to ‘the weirdos’, ‘the non-conformists’, and ‘those who dare to be different’. It was a slick marketing campaign designed to sell a substandard computer that was more grift than actually useful. But keep in mind, for the period before he succumbed to terminal cancer, Jobs was convinced that a diet of dried fruits and nuts was the cure for his pancreatic and liver cancers. Sounds like Jobs and Danielle Smith would get along great.

    Kenney warned that he feared that the lunatics might take over the asylum (The UCP) and this claim may be prescient.

    All this reminds me of a great funeral joke …

    This person attends his boss’ funeral. He walks up to the casket, leans in and whispers into the deceased’s ear, “Who’s thinking outside the box now, Greg?”

  2. Agreed, the anti-vaxxers are calling the shots, clogging up hospital ER’s so people with real problems have to wait hours upon hours to get looked at. Funny how Ontario is promoting the second booster shot and just like the under 5 years old vaccine announcement there was very little fan fare about that either. This is really odd because Kenney loves nothing more than to compare Alberta to Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Gladly if it is so much better elsewhere, he will have his opportunity to move there in October.

  3. The UCP really doesn’t care who their bad policies affect. They’ll brush any criticism off, and blame the NDP, or Justin Trudeau, when it all goes bad. No one should be surprised by this at all.

  4. The anti-vaxxers may be calling the shots in the UCP caucus but nevertheless if you notice you can still go and get your child jabbed if you want. It’s called freedom of choice. Which is a better world than the one envisioned by vaccine fanatics who demand mandatory inoculation for all, no and ifs or buts.

    1. If you make selling crack profitable enough, someone will. As a result, we have created laws to try to address that problem, even though those laws restrict some of our freedoms. They don’t work perfectly, but at least we’re trying to do something about it.

      If you make selling misinformation profitable enough, someone will. We have not made a good-faith attempt to use existing laws to curb this problem, because those laws would restrict some of our freedoms. As a result, conspiracy theories are flourishing, and adults who remember what happened yesterday and are willing to try to take responsibility for what will happen tomorrow are a shrinking minority drowned out by an ever-growing chorus of shrieking, indignant, hysterical, self-righteous dumbasses.

      As an aside, it’s really surreal how many people are proud to be victims of grifters. “Hapless rube” has become a social identity you can purchase/in-crowd you can belong to, much like “goth kid” or “valley girl.” I used to worry about bacteria-resistant superbugs or rampant AIs destroying us, now I worry about us going extinct from being delusional twits who inherited high technology we’re too foolish and irresponsible to manage. “Here lies humanity – died humping a toaster in a bathtub.”

  5. Maybe the UCP leadership candidates should promise a 62 percent bonus to everyone in the civil service, just to square things up with CMOH Deena Hinshaw. That would be a nice little pre-election vote-buying gimmick, don’t you think?

    The Smith camp’s $300 mad money for naturopaths has no allure at all. Better idea: give everyone in Alberta $228,000 for no particular reason.

    We all know that syphilis is Deena Hinshaw’s top public health enemy. Monkeypox is becoming a concern elsewhere, but if Covid has taught is one thing, it’s that schools and daycares are exempt from the spread of disease. Children don’t get sick at schools/daycares, capiche? And if they do, monkeypox testing is available at the nearest STI clinic. Go Deena!

  6. I’ve concluded the worst is yet to come once Danielle Smith wins the UCP leadership.

    Albertans will be stuck with her for 9 months (Oct-May) until the province-wide election in May 2023. I wonder if voters will finally wise up and elect Rachel Notley, or will they make matters worse?

    Just when you think the UCP, now apparently run by anti-vaxxers and Nazi truckers, they find a new bottom. For the love of God, please make it stop!

  7. And news of a recent bonus paid to Dr. Deena Hinshaw is raising quite a few eyebrows, in the sense that how does she get a bonus anyway?

    Given that Hinshaw’s guidance for the pandemic response was as sketchy as the UCP’s attitude to the public health measures, I am wondering if Hinshaw was just paid off and will be leaving her position shortly?

  8. The UCP is in existential crisis, but it’s still the government of Alberta and Jason Kenney —at very least co-author of his party’s demise—is still the premier. What influence, if any, did he have on the substance (Covid vax for under-five-year-olds), timing (‘take-out-the-trash-on-a-long-weekend-friday’) and/or tone (suspiciously muted) of an important public health announcement?

    In some sense, because one of the leadership hopefuls is intentionally making the race a lightning rod for anti-vax sentiment currently afflicting the party (which was already derided as “the Disunited Conservative Party” long before this bizarre contest made it more so), the near-stealth tone of the announcement could be rationalized as, at best, inconvenient to the deliberative process of electing a new party leader, perhaps even considering the unusual circumstance of its necessity and the fact that whomever wins will automatically become the premier. At worst it is motivated by—as per UCP usual— partisan factors ulterior to the wellbeing of the great province of Alberta.

    I think the UCP was very effectively—and deservedly—stung by Loyal Opposition leader Rachel Notley’s unusual intervention into her rival party’s business. Perhaps the sotto voce tone of the announcement, also typically timed so citizens are less likely to hear about or dwell upon it (at least until the usual flow of events subsumes and blunts it), was designed to minimize more potentially embarrassing commentary on the leadership race from the peanut gallery.

    The most vociferous peanut gallery gathers around Danielle Smith like shreds of tissue to a rat-tail comb, freshly greased. Doubtless anybody concerned with the good of the party (and, perhaps, also-rans like Alberta and the federation) would prefer that the radical right faction quietly conserve their often absurd rhetoric —just like Manning and Harper (maybe even O’Toole) recommended, at least until the winning of power is achieved. But the former Wildrose opposition leader Smith, who hasn’t had a seat in the Assembly since losing it as a turncoat ProgCon in its historically mortal rout of 2015, is laser-focused on the party race where she has, so far, an even shot of winning. She of all people should know that indiscretion in the general arena is inadvisable because it spoiled her projected win in 2012, but it discretion isn’t quite so vital in the party contest—and especially in the precariously factionalized UCP. Besides, virtually all the F-T-bombing, Wexiteering, freedumbite, anti-vaxxers in the general population are already in the UCP (and, to some extent, “calling the shots”…).

    If the announcement’s hushed brevity was meant to be overlooked by this particularly outspoken faction, as proudly arrogant, anti-science, pro-illiteracy, and insolently ignorant as it presents, the authors must have overlooked the fact that conspiracy theorists thrive on tiny bits of incomplete or willfully cherrypicked info like this one: indeed, the more clipped and hushed such is, the more tantalizing the conspiracy-theory-addled find it—and find it ‘proof’ of whatever elaboration they can fabricate.

    Then again, maybe this is exactly the intent in the twisted world of internal UCP politics.

    I simply can’t believe everything—absolutely everything, including the most preposterous—isn’t very carefully calculated by anybody involved in this brewing UCP pissing match, but most assuredly those with such authority to make this announcement. Trying to hide it seems doomed to fail: conservative-minded voters will surely be alerted by the bellowing peanut-brained lizards they’ve saddled-up with, and progressives can rely on worthy sites like this one to find out even more about it, no matter how hard the authorities try to bury it.

    I rather wonder, instead, whether the substance, timing and tone of the announcement was calculated to have another effect. To flush out more of Danielle Smith’s zanier intentions in order to spoil her leadership bid? Or perhaps to blunt, for the benefit of whomever wins, the fact that the UCP apparently decided that being the last province to offer— at least bookings for— under-five vaccination looks better than being the only one that hasn’t? After all, whoever wins will immediately be held to account for Alberta’s most pressing crisis—healthcare—, virtually all of which can be blamed on the partisan right, most immediately the currently-ruling UCP. (Contrary to the Larsons of the redoubted, laagered, partisan world, the NDP government was a much needed four-year respite and as bold a rescuer of Alberta’s diminished healthcare system as could possibly be in the time allowed—otherwise, the sorry state of healthcare precedes Covid and its BFF UCP by almost three decades, more than a whole, human generation: impossible to fix in a mere four-year term, no matter how benevolent the governing party.)

    It’s not saying much that K-Boy is a better politician (in terms of such successes he’s had) than Danielle Smith. He should know all about the dangers of storming the psephological process with attack dogs: they only want to be fed more and more red meat and, inevitably, amphetamine-spiked black coffee and bath-salted buckets of gin. (If he has a head for Ottawa—presumably to manage Poilievre’s campaigns, party and general—, the ‘slouching’ can probably be attributed to body parts he lost to Alberta’s snarling version of la Meute.)

    If Smith is as good a politician as she is a shit-disturber, she’d be well advised to leave a ten-foot-pole birth between her and this under-five announcement—or can she demonstrate some control over the half-crazed Cerberuses she’s been baiting for the last month? That could be enough to win her the party leadership (in which case one of my theories is blown out the window—the tantalizing tidbit ain’t much a booby trap). But, in the reality of diminishing healthcare facility and prospects of future waves of Covid variants which real Albertans (of any stripe) feel if or when they need medical help, the NDP still looks the superior party to get a grip on this and other crises affecting the province. The time the UCP has remaining before the Big Day is about the only thing worse than the party itself.

    As for Ms Notley: I don’t think it necessary to disturb the UCP while it wrestles with this one. You finally got what medical science recommends—best leave it at that.

  9. I am fairly sure anyone in the UCP with any smidgen of good sense remaining does not want to mention the word COVID ever again, especially after their worst summer ever dealing with it, or perhaps more accurately, not dealing with it. So, it should not be surprising that this announcement was stripped to inoffensive meaningless political pablum by the UCP communications staff, mindful of the political minefield on this topic particularly within the current UCP party, where one of the leading candidates is playing footsie both with separatism and anti-vaxers.

    I suppose if she has any qualms, Ms. Hinshaw can take some comfort in the significant extra danger pay she already received, perhaps in exchange for her credibility. However, I suspect if the kooks (as Mr. Kenney called them) do take over, Hinshaw’s days may be numbered, so she might not want to spend it all just yet. If the UCP can get rid of the head of AHS because of pressure from its fringe members, I doubt Ms. Hinshaw has very good job security in a post Kenney regime.

    The UCP in this current leadership race seems to be a party going off madly in all directions and I don’t think that is a good sign for them in the long run. The Federal Conservatives, who were at least smart enough not to put the work united in their name, seem to be rallying towards one candidate, perhaps like Lemmings, but there does seem to be some general trend. Back here in Alberta, it seems much more split, perhaps one third kooks, one third establishment candidates and one third something else.

    We should not forget how the once seemingly invincible PC’s turned into humpty dumpty, had a great fall and were unable to put the pieces together again. It does sort of seem the UCP might be headed the same way, with the bonus of the very ironically chosen name.

  10. Now that news of Dr. Hinshaw’s bonus is out there, Brian Jean has already dived into the social media cauldron and asked was the enormity of the bonus a pay-off of some kind?

    The interesting thing with Jean’s assertion is that Hinshaw was paid off to authorize the public health measures that the UCP membership opposes. Okay, there is a fair amount of pretzel logic at work here, but the claim is that Hinshaw had to be paid off to implement what little restrictions there were? Unless Hinshaw is a veiled FreeDUMB Convoy adherent, Jean’s assertion makes no sense at all. Given that the UCP leadership race has gone nearly bonkers, it looks like that completely bonkers is coming up fast.

    How about Danielle Smith making the claim that the global Monkeypox outbreak is a side effect of the Pfizer vaccine? I can’t wait.

  11. You have to love the stupidity displayed by these idiots. One minute they are whining and crying about our high cost of health care, and trying to blame it on our doctors, the next minute they are trying to privatize it and make it a lot more expensive, now they have rewarded Hinshaw for helping them create a horrific mess.

  12. Watching people get rich spreading covid misinformation is beyond frustrating. We wouldn’t let them shout fire in a movie theatre for free, but we’ll let them make millions spreading false claims about an active pandemic. “Freedom of expression” is a worthy goal, but can and should be accomplished without enabling people to harm others. Now we’re going to watch a bunch of helpless children be harmed so that the Joe Rogans of the world can make bank. Western society is failing in real time before our eyes.

  13. If Alberta had posted better covid numbers than other provinces, this payment could be justified as a bonus. Given that Alberta has spent most of the pandemic in the coveted “worst in the country” position, a bonus seems highly unwarranted. This appears to be a “you scratched our backs, now the taxpayer scratches yours” kinda deal. Not sure what’s more disgusting, that a trained, accredited doctor appears to have sold out Albertans, or that their price was only a quarter mil.

  14. I’m a parent of two boys – ages 6 and 3 – and the pandemic’s been an anxious time, simply because of the lack of information for either of our children’s age groups for vaccination.

    Our pediatrician (who, coincidentally, has children the same age as ours) has urged us to be cautious in how much contact we have with everyone, given our children’s vaccination status (and that of my wife’s compromised immunity). Following her lead, we’re still living very much under our own “hybrid” of restrictions – little-or-no face-to-face contact with relatives, including grandparents, distancing on walks, masking in stores, no restaurants, no movie theatres, Christmas by ourselves, etc.

    It’s been hard, but my wife and I have been determined to see things through until our three-year-old got his first shot. Our train to a “return to normal-ish” was never going to leave the station until he has at least one shot, if not two. But we had no idea we’d have to wait this long, especially given that the U.S. began administering the Moderna series to the under-5 group since May. We were happy with last week’s announcement here in Alberta, and managed to secure a decent appointment for our younger son – Wednesday morning – on AHS’s slick online portal for vaccine registration. We will have to be very careful not to get a speeding ticket on the way to the clinic tomorrow.

    But the anxiety ain’t over yet. That’s because there’s also been a lack of information about boosters for our older son’s group (5-11). He completed his initial two-shot Pfizer series earlier this year (his second shot was in January) but, since then, there’s been no word on when he might be able to get his first booster of his shot (remember, that second Pfizer shot isn’t a “booster,” it’s just the second half of the two-shot regimen that makes up the initial vaccination series). Earlier this summer, AHS announced that second boosters are now open for adults (my wife and I got it right away), but there’s been nothing about boosters for the 5-11 Pfizer group. That initial two-dose series is now about to wear off – it lasts about six months.

    And that means that our six-year-old is a month away from the start of Grade 2 and basically riding with little or no protection against the coronavirus (in other words, the same as he was when he entered Grade 1 last fall). I can only assume that there are other kids in his class who will be in the same situation (mind you, an alarming number of kids in our son’s class didn’t get vaccinated at all last year).

    Better yet … Danielle Smith will likely end up being our premier in two months … and perhaps even for the next four-plus years beyond that.

    Yeah. Not good.

    1. Jeff,
      I’m in much the same boat as you are. I’m cautiously optimistic about this round–happy to get my kids vaccinated and hope that this lowers their (already relatively low) risk of severe illness, and hopeful that this makes some small contribution to reducing spread in our family (we got COVID in May, and it was through our kids–you can’t isolate from your toddler, and you can’t stop them from sneezing in your face either).
      Here’s hoping this helps your family stay healthy, too.

  15. Why is Denmark banning children from getting the covid vax if it’s so great. Jonestown is alive and well here I see, wow! Most of us drank the kool-aid in the beginning, the smart ones spit it out early. There’s still time, you can too.

    1. Scott: This is a misrepresentation of what is happening in Denmark, which presumably you have picked up from an irresponsible publication, possibly the Western Standard, which published a story with a headline about a ban. Denmark has not banned the COVID-19 vaccine. It has suspended its vaccination program on the grounds its health authorities have concluded the virus is now under control because vaccine coverage in the Danish population is high. It has said vaccinations are no longer necessary for under 18s for the same reason. Importantly, Danes are allowed to complete their vaccine regimen and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority says there will likely be a need to vaccinate against Covid-19 again in the fall. I imagine this decision will be controversial. DJC

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