Vaccine bookings multiply as Albertans 40 and over rush to get AstraZeneca shots

Thousands more Albertans are rushing to roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the province lowers the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot.

More appointments were made for AstraZeneca in the span of two and half hours on Tuesday than during all of last week, Alberta Health Services said in a statement. 

People born in 1981 or earlier became eligible to make appointments at 8 a.m. More than 900 people were already in the queue when the online booking site went live, AHS said. By 10:30 a.m., more than 27,000 people had booked appointments.

“Uptake for the AstraZeneca vaccine has been significantly higher this morning, with the expansion of eligibility to all Albertans aged 40 years and over,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson in an email.

Eligible Albertans can book through the online booking tool, or by calling 811. The shots are also being offered at select pharmacies and large vaccinations centres established by Alberta Health. 

During the first hours of booking Tuesday, about 6,500 appointments were made in the Edmonton health zone and another 15,000 were booked in the Calgary zone. 

“This is a higher uptake in one morning than over the entirety of last week, when eligibility was limited to Albertans aged 55 and over,” Williamson wrote.

“For context, 4,525 people received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Edmonton, and 5,559 people received AstraZeneca in Calgary between April 12 and April 18.” 

AstraZeneca is the only vaccine Alberta is making available to people as young as 40. The province lowered the eligibility age from 55 on Sunday after federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu gave provinces and territories the go-ahead based on new Health Canada rules.

Lowering the age made 575,000 more Albertans eligible for the shots. As of Sunday, Alberta had about 170,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available.

The vaccine is being offered at more than 70 pharmacies and AHS vaccination sites across the province, including two walk-in clinics.

There were long lines outside the Edmonton Expo Centre and Telus Convention Centre sites in Edmonton and Calgary. Due to high demand, an additional 500 walk-in appointments were added at the Calgary clinic a few hours after it opened. 

AHS said walk-in appointments “are limited” and encouraged people to book appointments.

Appointments will be booked for as long as vaccine supplies last, Tom McMillan, a spokesperson for Alberta Health, said in a statement Tuesday. 

No additional AstraZeneca shipments are currently scheduled to arrive in Canada, he said.

“Anyone over 40 who is currently eligible for AstraZeneca and does not book an appointment to receive the vaccine will be eligible to get immunized later when more vaccines arrive.”

As of Sunday, 1,165,223 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered across the province, with 233,340 Albertans fully immunized with two shots. 

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