COVID-19 vaccinations for those 75 and older start this week, what should Albertans expect?

Weeks ago, the question was when. Now that the date is set, people are wondering how the COVID-19 vaccine will roll out for the next eligible group: seniors 75 and older.

Alberta Health Services has hired extra staff and tested its online appointment portal, anticipating high volumes when it comes to calls and clicks.

Senior support groups, like the Kerby Centre in Calgary, say this is a moment many have been looking forward to. The centre has fielded questions like, “How can I get a vaccine appointment, how do I sign up?”

“We haven’t had a trial run on this, so to speak,” said Kerby Centre CEO Larry Mathieson. “Whether you’re working with seniors in an organization locally or if you’re the government, we haven’t had a precedent for this kind of event for a good hundred years.”

Many, he added, see the vaccine as a path back to normal life.

“Every day, every week, we have lots of people calling, anxious to get back to do the things that they used to do,” he said. “Whether they’re a user or even our staff, they’re just relishing the notion of getting a little closer to normal, normal life again.”

What’s the deal with vaccination appointments? 

Bookings begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

There are two ways to book an appointment:

  • If you have Internet access, either on your desktop computer or through a handheld device, you can head to www.ahs.ca/covidvaccine. 
  • Over the phone, simply call Health Link (811), but be warned: Alberta Health Services told CBC high call volumes are anticipated on Wednesday, which might mean a long wait before you’re helped by a nurse.

Family members who want to make an appointment on behalf of someone 75 or older who is eligible to receive the vaccine can help. All that’s needed is the Alberta Health Care number and date of birth of the person being vaccinated. Appointments can be made by phoning Health Link or going online.

Seniors will be directed to their closest clinic location.

Appointment time-slots begin Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Vaccination clinics will run daily between 8 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. AHS expects to extend these hours by Mid-March.

In Calgary, there are 75 regular community public health clinic staff and 650 additional casual immunizing staff ready to work. 

Across Alberta, there are 355 full-time immunizers, and more than 1,000 casual staff are available to help with this vaccine rollout. More staff will be hired as needed.

Transportation will be a community effort

If transportation is an issue, AHS is encouraging friends and family to help. 

Several agencies in all zones throughout the province are working with AHS to come up with solutions as well, especially for those who can’t leave their homes.

Mathieson told CBC the Kerby Centre has met online with agencies and the Ministry of Seniors and Housing to brainstorm what the best approach would be. He anticipates more meetings on the issue before Wednesday. 

“A lot of the organizing around this is happening very, very quickly,” Mathieson said.

I don’t qualify yet, what about me?  

The next phase could start in April, depending on vaccine availability.

It will include anyone aged 50 to 74, anyone with underlying high-risk health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 or older, eligible caregivers and residents and staff of congregate living settings.

Congregate living settings include correctional facilities, homeless shelters and group homes.

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