Alberta Health expanding COVID-19 vaccine rollout to participating pharmacies; 36 active cases in Fort McMurray

·2 min read

Participating pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary will now be able to schedule COVID-19 immunization appointments for Albertans aged 75 and older.

In a Tuesday press conference, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said 102 community pharmacies are now working to schedule appointments for the first week of March.

“This is just the start,” said Shandro. “As soon as we have the supply and the processes in place, we plan to expand the pharmacy program to help us get doses in the arms of every Albertan who wants to get vaccinated when they are eligible.”

Participating pharmacies were chosen based on location, population needs and demonstrated ability to handle large volumes of immunization in short time frames, added Shandro.

Albertans born in 1946 who are not living in Edmonton, Red Deer or Calgary are still able to receive their doses of the vaccine through Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“We know that many pharmacies across the province are keen to jump in and assist in this immunization program,” said Shandro. “However, we must start small due to the limited vaccine quantities that we are being provided by the federal government and the strict storage and handling requirements for the Pfizer vaccine.”

Alberta Health is also working with the Alberta Medical Association on plans to expand the vaccine rollout to community physicians, as well as developing large immunization clinics that can be set up when there is more vaccine supply in the province.

“We are ready and we are able to keep expanding our approach,” said Shandro. “As more vaccines arrive, participating pharmacies in many other communities will begin to offer the vaccine as well.”

Shandro also addressed the technical difficulties AHS experienced while launching the online vaccine appointment booking system this morning.

More than 150,000 users tried to visit the booking site and AHS was temporarily overwhelmed online and over the phone.

Shandro said he will be speaking to AHS and expressing his “disappointment” in the technical difficulties.

“We have made it clear the money is not an issue in responding to the pandemic,” said Shandro. “We did have the expectation that this rollout would be smooth.”

With more than 230,000 seniors to immunize in Alberta, Shandro said it will take some time before all seniors are fully immunized.

“We won’t get to everybody right on the first day but we will get to all of you,” he said. “I want to emphasize that shots are happening and the delays in getting through to the booking system will not slow down the actual vaccinations.”

COVID-19 numbers for Alberta, reported on February 24:

COVID-19 in Fort McMurray:

COVID-19 in rural areas and Wood Buffalo National Park:

COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s schools:

COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s workplaces:

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today