Tempers flare, frustration continues but seniors’ vaccinations pick up steam

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While some mayhem persisted for seniors booking COVID-19 vaccination shots Thursday, many of those eligible across the province managed to grab an appointment into the second day of trying.

By 2 p.m. Thursday, more than 100,000 of the 230,000 eligible seniors aged 75 or older living in the community had booked appointments for both doses, though many won’t get their second shots until well into April.

And 2,000 of those had already been vaccinated with their first dose on Wednesday, just hours after bookings opened with considerable disarray on the Alberta Health Services online site and Alberta Health Link phone line.

Tempers flared at Brentwood Mall as some arriving for their vaccination questioned why young people — some of whom are health-care workers or are employed at seniors’ residences — were ahead of them.

Calgary senior Hugh Gaudet said his wife managed to secure bookings Wednesday night but, after struggling all day, was unable to get one for himself.

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“It was real chaos — we made 102 calls on two phones and I tried to go on the internet and it crashed,” said Gaudet, 84.

Finally on Thursday morning, Gaudet said he was able to arrange his appointments for both doses — the second shot not until April 13, his wife Pat on April 18.

Their first doses are scheduled for mid-March.

“It’s the luck of the draw — ours are at different times and different places, which is fine — we’re able to relax now,” he said.

AHS continue to urge patience as a backlog of booking attempts remained.

“We continue to anticipate a wait time to get through to the online booking tool or Health Link in the coming days. Please be patient if you are waiting to book a vaccine appointment,” stated an AHS tweet at midday Thursday.

Seniors in long-term care or assisted living facilities are receiving the vaccine separately, where they reside.

On Wednesday, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro expressed disappointment with glitches in the appointment system, but said more resources were being provided for Health Link and the AHS online portal to reduce the gridlock.

He also announced more than 100 pharmacies throughout the province would begin providing vaccines in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer in early March, which are expected to distribute 20,000 shots a week.

More locations will be added as the vaccine supply improves, said Shandro.

Much of the distribution timeline, he said, remains dependent on the pace of vaccine supply from the federal government, which is expected to provide at least 50,000 doses a week to Alberta.

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Pharmacist Brian Jones said he’s already received a few hundred bookings at his Shoppers Drug Mart, 2250 162 Ave. S.W.

“Customers have been asking me about this since last summer,” said Jones.

The store will be adding extra staff shifts to handle the increased inoculation traffic that he expects to commence March 6.

The temperature-sensitive Pfizer-BioNTech doses will have to used up within five days of their arrival, but Jones said he and his staff are prepared for that challenge and don’t require special refrigeration.

“We know the rules, we know how to handle it — we’re used to protocols and procedures,” he said.

Depending on the availability of vaccines, Jones said his location will be putting a minimum of 30 doses in arms each day, with a maximum of 200, “but that’d be really busy…it’s all about doing it in a safe way.”

Those born in 1946 and before can book at Health Link by calling 811 or at the AHS portal at ahs.ca/covidvaccine.

They can also book at a local pharmacy at ab.bluecross.ca

More to come…

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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