Dr. Deena Hinshaw to update Alberta on COVID-19 pandemic

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is expected to provide another update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. MT. You can watch the news conference here. 

The briefing comes as another vaccination rollout begins. On Wednesday, more groups of eligible Albertans began booking COVID-19 immunizations.

The two groups eligible to receive the Covishield/AstraZeneca vaccine are Albertans born in 1957 and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972.

A new rush for vaccinations 

Vaccination bookings opened shortly after 8 a.m.

Alberta Health Services said more than 10,000 people had booked appointments as of 11 a.m.

Appointments start in all zones across the province Thursday morning.

The AHS booking website has been upgraded to better accommodate demand, AHS said. 

The tool is able to book approximately 100,000 appointments over a 24-hour period.

As of 1 p.m., appointments continued to be available, as Alberta has approximately 58,500 doses of the vaccine on hand. Additional doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive next week, AHS said.

“The vaccine rollout is a mammoth logistical task, and we anticipate very high demand for appointments tomorrow and throughout this week,” AHS said in an open letter issued Wednesday. 

“AHS has upgraded the online booking tool to increase capacity. We have added more servers to support the website and increase its processing power. More network bandwidth has also been added.” 

Queuing technology has also been added to the online booking tool, indicating wait times for each user, AHS said. 

AHS warned that wait times could be “substantial” at peak times and urged people to have patience. 

“While we have increased capacity, if everyone tries to access those services at the same time, the queues will fill up and there will be delays,” AHS said

“If people are patient and wait until less peak times, the system will work better and more people will have an improved experience. Remember – there is enough vaccine for these two eligible groups to be immunized.” 

Depending on supply, Albertans born between 1958 and 1971 will be offered the chance to book appointments in coming days, with the rollout expanding by one birth year at a time.  

Covishield was recently approved by Health Canada and is considered equivalent to AstraZeneca.

AHS spokesperson James Wood said the first appointments for AstraZeneca in Alberta will roll out Thursday morning.

The estimated rollout plan for all vaccines in Alberta is available here. Timelines are subject to change depending on vaccine supply, AHS cautioned.

As of Tuesday, the province had administered 303,823 doses of vaccine, and 91,138 people had been fully immunized with two doses.

On Tuesday, Alberta reported six more COVID-19 deaths and 255 new cases.

There were 4,470 active cases in the province, with 263 patients being treated in hospitals, including 37 in ICU beds.

Another 28 cases of the highly contagious variants were also reported.

There are now 687 variant cases across the province, with 296 in the Edmonton health zone and 249 in the Calgary zone.

The current positivity rate sits at 4.6 per cent. 

The province moved fully into Step 2 of it’s reopening plan on Monday. 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said any decisions on moving to Step 3 will be made on March 22 at the earliest.

As restrictions ease, Hinshaw has urged Albertans to remain cautious and continue to follow all public-health restrictions.

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