Albertans 75 and over can begin booking COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday

With the expected vaccine shipments overseen by Ottawa, all of those eligible, numbering about 230,000, should receive their first dose by the end of March, said Hinshaw

Article content

Nearly a quarter of a million seniors living outside long-term care will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Wednesday morning, the province said Tuesday.

Those turning 75 sometime this year can start making appointments for inoculation on the AHS online booking tool or through HealthLink by phone at 811 starting at 8 a.m., said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

It’s the next major step in the vaccination process following the administration of 180,755 doses to long-term care residents and health-care workers in the province since mid-December — 73,000 of them having received two doses.

“This is a massive expansion for our province and a big step forward . . . this is a major milestone in our vaccination campaign,” said Hinshaw.

But with the expectation of heavy demand, the province’s top doctor urged patience.

“For many folks, I know it may feel like you’ve been waiting for a very long time for the vaccine and are keen to get a first dose but I’m asking everyone booking appointments to please be patient, especially in the first few days,” she said.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“We expect there will be enormous demand . . . we know this will take weeks to achieve.”

The vaccinations will be administered at 58 Alberta Health Services sites seven days a week throughout the province, with other venues such as pharmacies to be added, she said.

With the expected vaccine shipments overseen by Ottawa, all of those eligible, numbering about 230,000, should receive their first dose by the end of March, said Hinshaw.

Those vaccine recipients, she said, will also be given a date for their second dose.

Seniors living in long-term care or assisted-living facilities don’t have to arrange appointments as those are being made for them by AHS.

The UCP government has been sharply critical of Ottawa’s procurement of vaccines from foreign supplies Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as Canada has fallen behind many countries in per-capita vaccination rates.

But the federal government has said a major influx of vaccines is on the way.

Hinshaw said the province remains at the mercy of that distribution and still faces a shortage of vaccines.

“Unlike our yearly influenza campaigns, we do not have large stockpiles of the vaccine ready to go, instead we’re relying on new shipments we expect will be increasing each week,” she said.

Calgary senior Hugh Gaudet said he and his wife Pat have been eagerly awaiting their turn at the vaccine, viewing it as an early step on the road to normalcy.

“We’re anxious to get the vaccine so we’re going to be up on the phone at 8 in the morning but it’s going to be a big problem with a lot of people having the same idea,” said Gaudet, 84.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“We’re looking forward to the security it gives us.”

Even so, he said the announcement reduces the uncertainty prompted by vaccine shortages in recent weeks.

But he questioned the logistics of the wider roll-out the temperature-sensitive Pfizer-BioNTech.

“I just don’t know if the doctors offices and pharmacies will have the refrigeration,” said Gaudet.

Hinshaw said the Phase 2 loosening of restrictions that might be announced March 1 could be lifted that same day rather than with a week’s advance notice.

But she said that remains uncertain, particularly as testing positivity numbers have inched up in recent days, as have the virus’s reproduction rates.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw’s federal counterpart Dr. Theresa Tam said that if encouraging trends from vaccinations continue, they might eliminate the need for tougher health restrictions before the end of summer.

“I think that is a possibility (in Alberta). It depends on our capability to keep the spread of the virus low as we roll out the vaccine,” said Hinshaw.

She also said it depends on Albertans’ willingness to be vaccinated.

Eleven more people in Alberta have also died from the disease — two of them in December and later determined to be from COVID-19 — bringing the total since last March to 1,853.

Another 267 new cases were reported Tuesday, with a test positivity rate of 4.4 per cent, while 326 COVID-19 patients are in hospital — 51 of those in ICU.

That compares to 324 in hospital and 53 in ICU the previous day.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Also on Tuesday, Hinshaw said she’s increasingly concerned with how some of those infected with the virus are being treated by those around them.

“We have heard concerns from individuals connected to recent outbreaks that they are feeling criticized, stigmatized or even blamed,” she said.

“It’s important to remember that every part of this province and every sector of society has been touched by this virus, and many of the cases and outbreaks we’ve seen have been triggered by a series of unfortunate events.”

She said a lack of understanding and compassion risks driving infection cases underground, which would hasten the spread of the disease.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View Source