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