Hope, excitement in the air as Albertans 30+ book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

There was a sense of excitement in Alberta Thursday, as everyone 30 and older became eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Beginning at 8 a.m., all Albertans born in 1991 or earlier were able to book an appointment to be vaccinated.

Read more: Alberta to begin booking COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12+ by May 10

The queue on the Alberta Health Services online booking tool reached more than 56,000 people at one point Thursday morning, with wait times estimated at around 45 minutes to book a spot.

As of 10:30 a.m., 62,000 appointments were booked through AHS.

Matt Dow woke up and logged on to the AHS booking website at around 7:45 a.m. He said he was about number 20,000 in line.

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“The experience was pretty smooth, I was quite impressed,” he said.

By 8:45 a.m., Dow said he had booked his appointment for Friday morning.

“It’s just one step to get through this. I work from home, I’m pretty low risk overall,” he said.

“I’m not going out to rodeos or parties or anything like that. It wasn’t a panic to get it but I’m just happy to get in there as soon as I can and get the ball rolling here.”

Read more: #GenX wins social media as 40+ crowd flocks to get AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Wednesday morning that vaccine eligibility would be expanding in Alberta. In addition to the 30+ age group being eligible now, every Albertan 12 and older will be eligible to book an appointment on Monday.

The move came after Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians 12 and older.

“This is a major milestone in our vaccine rollout and it comes right when we need it most,” Kenney said. “If we receive the supply that we’ve been promised, we expect to complete this entire phase by the end of June and hopefully sooner than that.”

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Summerside Pharmasave owner Momen el Ghazouly in Edmonton said his phone has been ringing off the hook. He’s in the process of trying to get additional phone lines installed in order to keep up with the demand.

“I feel so happy for people because for them, it’s a big event,” el Ghazouly said.

“We have extra staff right now to be able to help with the high demand.”

He is happy to see eligibility has been expanded and the pharmacy will do its best to get to everyone booked in as soon as possible. He’s extended his hours in order to offer as many appointments as possible.

“It’s been so crazy but I’m so happy because everyone is excited about getting the shot, everybody wants to get it done because it’s a nightmare for them and this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Click to play video: '‘Assurances of adequate supply’ the reason Alberta can open COVID-19 vaccine to larger population' ‘Assurances of adequate supply’ the reason Alberta can open COVID-19 vaccine to larger population

‘Assurances of adequate supply’ the reason Alberta can open COVID-19 vaccine to larger population

The expanded eligibility is a glimmer of hope days after more restrictions were announced in Alberta to curb the third wave of COVID-19.

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Vaccine supply is ramping up across the country, with Alberta set to receive 236,340 doses of the Pfizer vaccine alone this week, and every week in May. Starting the week of May 30, the number of doses Alberta will receive jumps to more than 280,000 doses per week each week in June.

“We want to make sure that we don’t end up sitting on vaccine doses in the freezers so we have to calibrate the timing of opening Phase 3 to a point where we see that Phase 2 has largely been inoculated and we’re starting to ramp up inventories,” Kenney said.

Read more: House of Commons debate over Alberta COVID-19 outbreak sees blame, no solutions

Health Minister Tyler Shandro also stressed that when people book an appointment, it is likely for a vaccine that hasn’t yet arrived in Alberta.

“What we do is we take the allocation table that we get from the National Operations Centre from the federal government. It has a forecast of what our allotment in Alberta is going to be well past 28 days, but we look at the next 28 days and we start allowing people to make those bookings based on the vaccines we are told by the federal government we are going to be getting,” Shandro said Wednesday.

“So when you make that appointment it’s for a vaccine that hasn’t gotten here yet. It’s not that we wait for the vaccine to get here and then we make people make an appointment.”

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As of May 4, 1,694,675 doses of vaccine had been administered in the province and 305,511 Albertans were fully vaccinated with two doses.

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