Elise Stolte: Alberta's silence on COVID-19 vaccine logistics is causing yet more pain

Gayl and Jim Lepp, are eager to get answers on the vaccine rollout. Taken on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 in Edmonton. Greg Southam-PostmediaGayl and Jim Lepp, are eager to get answers on the vaccine rollout. Taken on Feb. 16, 2021 in Edmonton. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

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Where is the plan? The silence on how vaccines will be rolled out in the community is getting ridiculous.

Well, no. It’s past that point. In a year with so much pain and uncertainty, leaving desperate people to keep scrolling, keep searching, keep emailing and calling government officials to double check if they missed a notice on the vaccine rollout, that just feels callous.

For weeks now, Alberta Health has been saying they will give more detail on the vaccine rollout when additional doses are available. But that doesn’t make sense. Even without dates, there are answers that could and should be clear.

How will Alberta Health prioritize people who are younger than 75 but are at a higher risk of severe illness or death because they are immunocompromised? Can seniors expect a letter or phone call, or will they need to seek out the information themselves? Will there be mobile clinics for lodges? Shots offered in doctors offices or in school gyms?


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That information has been available online for B.C. for weeks.

Even getting answers to basic questions has been challenging, although on Tuesday I finally confirmed Alberta Health is using birth year, not birthday, to determine eligibility. As for getting notified and booking an appointment, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw simply said she’s hoping to partner with “health-care professionals to make sure that people know when they are eligible.”

I’ve been paying more attention to seniors and the nuances of the promised vaccine rollout recently as part of Groundwork, the Edmonton Journal’s pilot project in engagement journalism, which is focused on seniors & COVID-19 through March. As part of that, we’ve now had more than 300 people write or text in with their questions on the rollout.

I’m not exaggerating about the endless scrolling, searching and anxiety that comes from having no public plan.

“I’m terrified of missing a step,” writes Theresa Hughes, a 60-year-old with low immunity living in the community. “Does my doctor have to put my name forward? Do I just show up at the vaccination centre? I sure wish I lived in any province other than Alberta.”

“No dates, schedules for doses, places, etc. almost a year after pandemic (first hit), months after ‘general’ schedule and grouping. Alberta needs to shape up now,” wrote Robert Solomon, an 82-year-old living in the community.

“Does the system know we are two 83-year-olds living in a small house and desperately trying to get our names on the vaccine priority list?” wrote Gayl and Jim Lepp.


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The lack of a plan and clear priorities breeds cynicism.

Last week, I wrote about the hurt and confusion Premier Jason Kenney caused when he talked about all seniors in long-term and designated supportive care getting the vaccine, without clarifying that seniors in licensed supportive care and many kinds of assisted living and lodges were still waiting.

The article quoted a woman living in Canterbury, in Laurier Heights. This past weekend, I got an email update to say their vaccines have now been scheduled for Feb. 24. I Tweeted about it and immediately heard cynicism.

Where is the front page story for dad’s lodge? asked one frustrated Edmonton daughter.

She shouldn’t have to feel that way. No one should be stuck wondering if a well funded nonprofit in an upscale neighbourhood moved up the list because it had a strong lobby effort. We should be able to trust these decisions are based on risk and science. The only way Alberta Health and the Government of Alberta can build that trust is by being transparent.

In late January, Alberta Health had to cope with “sudden and dramatic changes in vaccine supply,” as Hinshaw said when explaining the delayed plan earlier. But deliveries are expected to ramp up again this week. Already, Alberta is rebooking eligible the health care workers and enough vaccine has been promised by the end of the March to fully immunize every Alberta senior age 75 and up.

That’s roughly 230,000 people. It will be a monumental task to get that done, and then to tackle other groups at risk from health conditions and workplace exposure. There will be missteps. Of course there will be. This is complicated and hard.

But enough with holding the cards tight to the chest. If we’re in this together, be open and share the plan.



This article is part of Groundwork, the Edmonton Journal’s pilot project in engagement journalism. Sign up for the mailing list here and submit your vaccine questions in the form below or at edmontonjournal.com/groundwork.


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