Thousands of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine appointments booked in Alberta

·3 min read

EDMONTON — Thousands of people have made appointments to receive Alberta's first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and the province's top doctor says more will be able to do so in the days ahead.

Albertans born in 1957 were able to go online or call 811 to book their shots Wednesday. Alberta Health Services was encouraging people to use web bookings to take the load off the 811 Health Link phone line.

Indigenous people born in 1972 could also book appointments for the AstraZeneca shot by calling 811.

Between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., more than 11,500 people had booked, Alberta's chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, told a media briefing.

"If you are eligible to get the vaccine, please do so and encourage your friends and neighbours to do so as well," she said.

"The more people who become immunized, the less the virus will be able to mutate and the less it will impact our communities."

Starting Thursday morning, anyone born in 1958 and Indigenous people born in 1973 can sign up to be vaccinated, Hinshaw said. More birth years will be added as supplies allow.

The province has about 58,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and more are anticipated to arrive next week.

Alberta is following the advice of a national immunization committee and is not offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 and older. That's because clinical trials didn't include enough people in that age group to determine efficacy.

Online booking was overwhelmed last month when the province began offering shots of two other approved vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier.

Alberta Health Services says it has added queuing technology that tells users how many people are waiting ahead of them and if the wait is longer than an hour.

On Wednesday, Alberta reported 399 new COVID-19 infections and two deaths.

There were 254 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 37 in intensive care.

Hinshaw said 47 of the new cases involve virus variants believed to be more transmissible, bringing the province's variant total to 734 since the first was identified in a traveller in mid-December.

She said the proportion of active cases that involve a variant has risen to nine per cent from three per cent in late January.

In some parts of the world, that proportion has grown from three or four per cent to more than half within six weeks, Hinshaw added.

"This means our health measures — both our overall restrictions as well as the targeted measures for variant cases — are working to slow the growth and, if we continue to work together, we can continue to limit the spread."

She urged Albertans who have been immunized to continue to follow public health measures.

"I know it can be tempting to let your guard down after immunization, but we need to better study and understand the effectiveness of the vaccines in preventing transmission, including asymptomatic and variant transmission, before we can safely alter our policies."

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021

The Canadian Press