Alberta seniors over 75 can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting 8 a.m. on Wednesday

Albertans 75 and older will be able to start booking appointments for their COVID-19 vaccinations starting on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

The first appointment for seniors will start at 11 a.m. the same day, according to AHS. Appointment times will be offered between 8:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. seven days a week. AHS said there are plans to extend these hours in mid-March.

While seniors in congregate living facilities such as lodges and retirement homes were offered COVID-19 vaccinations starting late last week, Wednesday will mark the first day of vaccinations for community seniors.

Seniors will be directed to vaccination clinics closest to where they live.

READ MORE: Phase 1B of Alberta COVID-19 vaccine plan begins now, Phase 2 expected in April

AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said Health Link will be increasing staff to meet “the anticipated high call volume and demand.”

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Williamson said wait times will likely still be higher than normal as a result of interest in booking a vaccination.

Seniors can also go online to book their appointments at www.ahs.ca/covidvaccine.

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Some online portals in the United States have run into issues due to high demand; Williamson said AHS has worked to ensure the platform for the online vaccine booking tool is “robust and can readily handle large volumes of users.

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“Testing of the site has occurred, and AHS is confident the site is designed to meet the needs of all Albertans that will be booking a COVID-19 vaccine,” Williamson said.

Dr. Noel Gibney, co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic response committee, said there have been examples in the United States of younger people organizing to help seniors book immunizations. He then noted that, in contrast, the online booking system in the United Kingdom has worked well.

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READ MORE: Alberta officials reassure booking system for COVID-19 vaccinations will operate smoothly

“It depends very much on how well the system is set up,” he said.

“There’s no question, in some instances, if the online portal isn’t well designed and able to cope with the large number of inquiries, there is a risk it could crash.”

However, Gibney said AHS has experience using a portal system for booking vaccines for their staff.

“One would imagine it’s not their first rodeo in terms of booking vaccines. I would certainly hope it would be able to cope with significant number of online bookings,” he said.

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