COVID-19: AHS asks people to arrive for vaccinations at their allotted times after seniors experience long lines at vaccination centres Thursday

Hundreds of people with vaccination appointments queued outside of an Alberta Health Services clinic at Skyview Power Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.Hundreds of people with vaccination appointments queued outside of an Alberta Health Services clinic at Skyview Power Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

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Eligible seniors showing up at central sites to get their COVID-19 vaccinations are being asked to arrive at their allotted times to cut down on crowding and lineups.

The request comes after seniors were seen waiting in long lines on Thursday outside of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Skyview Power Centre vaccination clinic. Some were sitting in lawn chairs and walkers while others were seen reading books they brought with them. Some told Postmedia they had been waiting two hours to receive their shot.

AHS spokesman James Wood said they are aware of long lines at some clinics and are planning to add more staff and signage to encourage people to wait in their vehicles until their appointment time. He said this will help with social distancing efforts at the sites.

“Some individuals are arriving at appointments 30 to 60 minutes in advance, and as a result, wait lines are forming outside the facilities,” said Wood in an email. “We ask that all clients wait in their cars until five minutes before their appointment and not arrive more than 10 minutes early.”

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Wood asked that only those receiving their immunizations enter the clinics unless their assistance is required.

“Please respect each other’s designated appointment time and help ensure everyone continues to follow Alberta’s public health guidance,” said Wood.

Hundreds of people with vaccination appointments queued outside of an Alberta Health Services clinic at Skyview Power Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. People said that they had waited two hours for a shot. Photo by Ian KucerakHundreds of people with vaccination appointments queued outside of an Alberta Health Services clinic at Skyview Power Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. People said that they had waited two hours for a shot. Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by IAN KUCERAK Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Seniors 75 years of age and older became eligible to receive a vaccination on Wednesday. With appointment bookings going live in the morning, many Albertans experienced difficulties confirming their bookings both online and over the phone. However, thousands of seniors were able to get through and on Wednesday afternoon Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced 25,000 people had confirmed their time slot to receive their shots.

On Thursday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an updated number on Twitter, saying more than 100,000 seniors have now confirmed their appointments.

Thank you to those who have stepped forward so far. Your decision to be immunized will help to keep you and people you come into contact with, safe from COVID-19,” Hinshaw tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Shandro has previously said there are around 230,000 seniors who are eligible to receive a vaccination. He issued a statement Thursday saying an additional 22,000 seniors living in congregate settings have booked appointments.

“Combined with the 28,000 seniors in long-term care already vaccinated, well over half of Alberta’s 75-plus population is already vaccinated or booked to receive the vaccine,” said Shandro in the emailed statement.

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He said the online booking tool is now able to handle more than 5,000 bookings per hour.

“The long wait times have subsided,” said Shandro. “I have further directed Alberta Health Services to add more servers, hire more staff, and add more phone lines over and above what may be needed for future phases of the vaccine deployment.”

Alberta reported 399 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, after 9,217 tests were completed over the previous 24 hours. The province’s positivity rate is 4.4 per cent, Hinshaw said.

The number of active cases in the province fell to 4,484, down from 4,545 on Wednesday. The number of people being treated in hospital also fell to 280, down from 307 the day before. A total of 56 people are in intensive care.

Eight COVID-19 deaths were reported Thursday, bringing total fatalities in Alberta since the start of the pandemic to 1,874.

dshort@postmedia.com

— With files from Ian Kucerak

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