Canada province Alberta drops vaccine age to 12 as COVID-19 cases surge

FILE PHOTO: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) -Alberta will become the first Canadian province to offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from May 10, Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday, a day after he introduced tighter public health measures to combat a raging third wave of the pandemic.

United Conservative Party premier Kenney has come under fire for mixed public health messaging as the crest of Canada's third wave of the pandemic shifts from Ontario to Alberta.

Oil-rich Alberta has the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 146 people in intensive care. (Graphic on global cases and deaths) https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi

"We must act to bend the curve down one last time," Kenney told a news conference.

Based on current trends, Alberta's healthcare system will be overwhelmed within a month, he added.

On Wednesday, Alberta reported 2,271 new cases, exploding from less than 200 in early February.

Canada has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children from 12 to 15, the first shot to be allowed for people that young.

Under Alberta's new restrictions, schools will be confined to online learning for two weeks, while other measures including restaurant patios being closed will last for three weeks.

Opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said the timelines announced by Kenney were unrealistic.

"We are concerned that he is continuing his pattern of over-promising and under-delivering," Notley told a news conference on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, the province reported its first death of a patient from a rare blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot)

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