COVID-19: AHS bracing for surge in demand as Alberta rolls out next phase of vaccine strategy on Wednesday

Donna Duchak (77) has been isolating in her apartment during the coronavirus pandemic and is looking forward to getting her COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Larry Wong/Postmedia)Donna Duchak, 77, said she’ll get the COVID-19 vaccine dose as soon as she can, feeling blessed to be in the chosen group and hoping it will help others. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

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Edmonton’s Sandy Hasinoff says she’s dreading having to book an appointment to get her COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting Wednesday at 8 a.m., Albertans born in 1946 and earlier will be able to use Alberta Health Service’s (AHS) online booking tool at to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated with their first dose. They can then book the second dose within the recommended 32 to 42-day window. Seniors can also call Health Link at 811 to schedule through a nurse. Family, friends or loved ones can also book on a seniors’ behalf as long as they provide the date of birth and Alberta Health Care number at the time of booking.

Appointments will be booked seven days a week from 8:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Those living in lodges or in private support homes will be contacted directly through their care team so residents don’t have to book their own appointment.

Hasinoff, a 78-year-old grandmother of four, will be eligible to make an appointment but said on Tuesday she’s not looking forward to the process after spending hours on hold in March last year just to book a COVID-19 test for her husband. The couple were taking a tour in Israel when someone on their tour was found to be infected with the virus. After returning home to Canada, Hasinoff’s husband began developing symptoms and later tested positive.


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Hasinoff said she spent hours trying to book a test for him and even went to bed with the phone still on hold only to have been woken up later in the evening by someone saying they would call her back.

“It’s going to be very trying,” she said, about calling 811 to book an appointment. “A lot of people will be trying (to book) online. For those who are limited to a phone, it’s just going to be nothing but frustration. I don’t know how they’re organizing 811. They may have a system with a gazillion of operators but if they don’t, how are people going to get through?”

Albertans 75 years or older fall under Phase 1B of Alberta’s vaccine rollout strategy. Phase 1A started in January but was delayed following supply shortages. Albertans who are booking are asked to have their health care number ready when calling.

AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson said Albertans should expect longer wait times because of the increase in demand.

“We anticipate high demand for appointments in the next several days and we ask everyone to be patient,” he said. “We know many Albertans are anxious to book appointments and get their immunization. This will happen and is being guided by vaccine availability. We have the capacity to ramp up quickly as more doses arrive but please keep in mind that it will likely take several weeks (through the end of March) to vaccinate all the seniors age 75-plus with the schedule of vaccine shipments that we currently expect.”

Williamson said some pharmacies will be used to help vaccinate seniors and bookings will be handled by them directly. More information is anticipated to be shared later this week.


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Once someone has been booked, he said AHS will provide a confirmation with a location, date and time for their first and second dose appointments. There will be 58 sites located across the province.

While community transportation is being encouraged, Williamson said AHS is working with several transportation agencies in all health zones to provide rides for everyone.

He said about 460,000 doses will be needed in order to vaccinate all seniors in Phase 1B of the government’s vaccine rollout plan and timelines will depend on supply. The goal is to have those in Phase 1B immunized by the end of March or early April.

Donna Duchak, 77, said last week she’ll get the shot as soon as she can, feeling blessed to be in the chosen group and hoping it will help others. “I’m happy to be a guinea pig,” she said, hoping to be part of the ever-growing data set on vaccine safety and efficacy. “There’s so much we still don’t know. Better it should be me than some 20 or 30-year-old parent of children.”

Duchak was one of hundreds who wrote in for Edmonton Postmedia’s Groundwork project, which is currently focused on building a community-drive Guide to the Vaccine Rollout.

With files from Elise Stolte


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