Alberta's COVID-19 vaccination program is about to switch into a higher gear as the province prepares to widen the age-range of people eligible for a shot.
Here's what you need to know about the vaccine rollout plan now and how it'll change starting on March 10:
Q: I'm a senior over the age of 75, can I get a shot now?
A: Yes. In Phase 1, Albertans born in 1946 or earlier can book an appointment online, call 811, or contact a participating pharmacy in Calgary, Edmonton or Red Deer.
Alberta Health Services will vaccinate residents born in 1946 or earlier in retirement centres, lodges, supportive living, and other congregate living facilities with people 75 or older.
Phase 1 eligibility also includes:
Health-care workers in intensive care units.
Health-care workers in emergency departments.
Health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms.
Paramedics and emergency medical responders.
Staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities.
Home care workers.
All residents of long term care and designated supportive living, regardless of age.
First Nations, Inuit, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Métis Settlement.
Q: What if I'm 75 or older and have challenges getting transportation to get to my vaccination appointment?
A: The Alberta government says it's encouraging a community approach to transport, asking friends and family to support seniors needing a lift but also says it's working with agencies throughout the province to help arrange transportation options for older Albertans who don't have family and friends who are available to assist their transportation or who can't leave their homes. Once someone has booked an appointment, they can reach out to 211 to learn about the transportation options if needed.
Q: Is it true that people aged 50 to 64 can start getting vaccinated starting on March 10 under Phase 2 (AstraZeneca)?
A: Yes — and no. The Alberta government is offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people in the following groups if they do not have a severe chronic illness:
Albertans aged 50 to 64.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) individuals aged 35 to 49.
It is being offered to people according to their birth years in a staggered rollout, starting with the earliest birth year and proceeding one birth year at a time.
As of Friday March 12 at 8 a.m. Albertans born in 1959 or 1960 will be added to the list of those who can book appointments.
That mean all Albertans born from 1957 to 1960 can book immunization appointments using the AHS online booking tool or by calling Health Link at 811.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972 to 1975 will be able to book their appointments by calling the AHS 811 line.
Subsequent birth years and dates will be announced while the supply lasts.
AHS says people will not lose their chance for a shot as the stages progress — once someone is eligible, they will continue to be.
Q: Can I book an AstraZeneca shot through a pharmacist?
A: No. This vaccine can only be booked through Alberta Health Services online or by calling 811.
Combined, Alberta Health Services says it, and 811, have the capacity to book approximately 5,000 individuals an hour.
Q: Why is the AstraZeneca vaccine being offered to people aged 50 to 64 even before some older people have been vaccinated?
A: The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for people 18 to 64 who are less at risk of severe outcomes. It is not recommended for people over 65 at this time.
The province plans to offer the first 58,500 doses of that vaccine only to healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 64.
It says the vaccine is recommended for those without a contra-indication such as a severe reaction to a vaccine ingredient.
People aged 50 to 64 can also opt to wait until May when Phase 2D begins to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Q: Who will be offered a vaccine in Phase 2 of the rollout?
A: Phase 2 is broken into Groups A through D.
In Phase 2 (Group A), Albertans aged 65 to 74 will be offered the vaccine starting the week of March 15.
Booking dates will open by year of birth, one year at a time.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis people aged 50 and older, no matter where they live, are also allowed to get their shots during this stage.
Phase 2 (Group B) will include Albertans aged 18 to 64 who have high-risk underlying health conditions.
Phase 2 (Group C) will include residents and staff of eligible congregate living settings, such as correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and group homes including disability, mental health and other types of licensed supportive living.
Health-care workers providing direct and acute patient care who have a high potential for spread to high-risk individuals, and caregivers of Albertans who are most at risk of severe outcomes are also in Group C.
Phase 2 (Group D) includes Albertans aged 50 to 64 (no matter where they live) as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 35 to 49 on and off reserve or Métis settlements.
Q: Why is the Alberta government spreading out the schedule for administering second doses?
A: Given that emerging evidence shows first doses of the vaccine are at least 80 per cent effective at preventing severe illness, the province decided that second doses would be administered four months (16 weeks) later so that all Albertans over 18 can get protected with the first dose by the end of June.
All appointments for second doses made before the new policy takes effect on March 10 will be honoured.
Q: How do I know which vaccine is the best one for me?
A: "This decision is a personal choice," says AHS on its website.
However, the province recommends all Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible — no matter what vaccine option is provided.
Those over 64 will not be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"All COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada — Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Covishield/AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — are safe and effective, and will help prevent serious illness."
Q: I've had COVID-19 and recovered, should I still get a vaccine?
A: You should still be immunized, the province says.
There is no mandatory waiting period between having COVID-19 and being immunized, but it is recommended people wait until they are feeling better.
Q: Once I'm vaccinated, can I resume my pre-pandemic routines?
A: No, not yet. The Alberta government says it's still important to practise public-health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if you've had the vaccine.
"It's important that people who have been immunized continue to follow public-health measures in order to protect themselves and others from COVID-19," Alberta Health says on its website.
"As we learn more about the vaccines and more people have been immunized, we'll be able to revisit the requirements for people who have been immunized."
Health Canada says vaccinated travellers into Canada, entering by air or by land, will still have to quarantine for 14 days and follow mandatory testing requirements.