Edmonton ready to open Expo Centre as mass vaccination site

·2 min read
The Edmonton Expo Centre was used for day-time drop-in services and an overnight shelter last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
The Edmonton Expo Centre was used for day-time drop-in services and an overnight shelter last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

The Expo Centre in Edmonton will open as a COVID-19 vaccination site soon, city manager Andre Corbould said Wednesday.

Alberta Health Services will make a formal announcement on using the building, Corbould told council's emergency advisory committee.

Clinics in Edmonton and Calgary are set to open next week, Alberta Health said in a news release Tuesday.

Bookings for rapid flow clinics in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat open Apr. 9.

The city is prepared to contribute $1.3 million to help run the site until October if vaccinations are still being administered, Corbould said.

"AHS is paying for and has contracted out all the health indoor aspects of it, we are providing outdoor aspects of it," Corbould said.

Outdoor aspects include providing transportation to and from the site, he said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city continues to collaborate with the province on using the Expo Centre as needed during COVID-19.

"Preparations are already underway, subject to a pending final approval from the province to activate the Expo Centre, which is ideally suited to safely accommodate a large flow-through of people," he said.

"This will add significantly to Alberta Health Services capacity for delivering those vaccines and we are happy to help.".

The Edmonton Expo Centre was used as an emergency shelter last spring when the pandemic started.

Shelter transition

The city is also working on plans to transition clients from the Edmonton Convention Centre, due to close at the end of April, to new 24/7 shelters.

During the meeting, several councillors asked how the city will manage camps if they emerge, as they did last summer, at Camp Pekiwiwin in Rossdale and two others in Old Strathcona.

Corbould said the city is working on a strategy to offer people other outlets and amenities, including opening day-use areas. Final plans will be announced Friday, he said.

Asking campers to leave a site would be a last-resort decision, Corbould said, pointing to recommendations from a community safety and well-being task force to treat people with dignity and improve shelter conditions.