Seniors navigating crowds as they seek to get their COVID-19 vaccines and an overwhelmed system to get shots booked online has the head of Alberta Health Services (AHS) apologizing.
On Wednesday, Albertans born in 1946 and earlier were allowed to go online at ahs.ca/covidvaccine or call Health Link at 811 to book an appointment for the vaccine. Within minutes, the booking website crashed, the phone line frequently disconnected and many had to wait hours for an opportunity to get an appointment.
AHS president and CEO Verna Yiu said in a statement late Friday that AHS underestimated the number of Albertans who would call and go online to book at launch.
“We made an error in judgement in how we stress-tested our online booking system,” she said. “We had planned for tens of thousands at a time, and demand far exceeded that, leading to technical issues that took several hours to resolve. The technical issues have been fixed, a queuing waiting room is in place, and the system is stable. We also acknowledge the public confidence in our ability to deliver immunizations has been shaken.”
Yiu also acknowledged long lineups at various immunization clinics. She said no one wants to line up in the cold so AHS is implementing better management and processing at the sites to encourage people to wait in their vehicles. Yiu said some clinics are running behind the allotted 10-minutes for each immunization in order to take more time with patients.
Within two days, she said more than 120,000 Albertans signed up to get a vaccine, more than half of the population in the age group. Over that period, roughly 12,000 seniors 75 and older have been immunized.
On Wednesday, the province announced approximately 100 community pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary will initially be taking part in the vaccine rollout program starting the first week of March.
More to come…
– With files from Ashley Joannou and Dylan Short