Expanded Alberta vaccine rollout hits sign-up snags while convention centre readied as inoculation site – Calgary Herald

Also on Monday, AHS announced it’ll be opening a vaccination clinic in the Telus Convention Centre on April 5 that will feature 100 immunization stations with the capacity to expand to 120

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Some Albertans seeking to book an appointment Monday amid an expanded COVID-19 vaccination program hit roadblocks, according to Alberta Health Services.

But at the same time, a significant increase in the accessibility of immunizations in Calgary was announced Monday with plans to open the Telus Convention Centre as a vaccination venue.

The glitches arose as the province launched Phase 2A of its vaccination program that allows those born between 1947 and 1956 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1971 and before to book their immunization appointments starting at 8 a.m. Monday.

“The AHS website is experiencing intermittent issues. The COVID-19 immunization booking tool launch this morning is being delayed as a result,” the agency tweeted Monday morning.

“We are working to resolve the issue quickly.”

The online booking tool was shut down for just over two hours and was reactivated after 10 a.m. with no further problems, said AHS later. By 4:30 p.m., 9,263 people in Phase 2A had been given vaccination appointments.

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The latest phase covers about 437,000 vaccine recipients.

Booking delays sparking considerable public frustration occurred late last month when the first round of vaccines was rolled out for seniors.

AHS noted those having difficulty booking online can do so by dialling 811 or making an appointment at a participating pharmacy, but some Albertans on Monday morning said those alternatives were bogged down.

“I can’t get through to 811, it just hangs up on me,” Tegan Goble said in a Tweet.

“The website isn’t taking online bookings. Same with any pharmacy I’ve tried. Pharmacies are also not taking calls. How am I supposed to book?”

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Acknowledging those disappointments and the likelihood some Albertans had jumped the queue, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, urged patience.

“I recognize it’s frustrating when people aren’t able to book their appointments today … there was some inconsistency in booking practices,” said Hinshaw.

“We will have enough vaccine to provide immunizations to all Albertans in 2A within the next three weeks.”

There’ll be improvements to the online booking tool when it opens Tuesday morning for the next eligible group, she said.

Provincial officials said Alberta’s vaccine rollout has been a success and progressed to younger categories before other provinces.

As of March 14, more than 368,000 doses of vaccine had been administered to Albertans – 91,593 of those with two doses.

Meanwhile, the Telus Convention Centre will open on April 5 with 100 immunization stations and the capacity to expand to 120. Those 100 stations could vaccinate up to 5,000 people a day.

“This is very exciting news and helps support and advance the government of Alberta goal to have all Albertans who wish to be vaccinated get vaccinated,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“We encourage all Albertans to get vaccinated as they become eligible and we are working closely with AHS and community partners to expand these opportunities.”

It’ll be open seven days a week for pre-booked appointments only, with free parking provided on-site.

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The inoculation site, to be the city’s largest, is a welcome addition to an effort to end the pandemic as soon as possible, said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“Our goal is to get it into as many arms as possible and the city is very pleased to be a partner in this,” he said.

Depending on the speed and volume of vaccine delivery, there could be more immunization site expansion, with the Genesis Centre in the city’s northeast capable of increasing its capacity five-fold, said Nenshi.

The convention centre clinic will bring the number of immunization sites to 25 in the AHS’s Calgary zone.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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