Alberta is pushing ahead with its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks.
The province will start phase 2A of its vaccine rollout next week. The province estimates more than 437,000 Albertans between the ages of 65 and 74 will soon be offered the vaccine.
Shandro also said he expects to be able to offer all Albertans 18 and over, a first dose of the vaccine by the end of June.
“The faster that people step up to get vaccinated, the faster we protect our communities and reduce the burden on our system,” Shandro said.
“The bottom line, widespread vaccination will help all Albertans get back to a more normal life sooner.”
Individuals between 73 and 74 will be able to book a vaccine appointment on March 15, with subsequent age groups being eligible to book appointments following that first day.
The province is set to receive 58,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some of those doses are set to expire soon and so the province will only administer those to people 64 and under.
Starting on March 10, Alberta Health Services will offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone between the ages of 50 and 64, who are not known to have a serve chronic illness.
Shandro said those in that age category can receive the vaccine now, or wait to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when phase 2D begins in early May.
“Both Dr. Hinshaw and I recommend all healthy Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible, no matter what vaccine is offered,” Shandro said, adding the AstraZeneca vaccine can reduce infections by between 60 and 70 per cent and reduce serve outcomes by 80 per cent.
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people aged 50 and older will also receive the vaccine starting the week of March 15. Those living on-reserve will book appointments through First Nations and Inuit Health and their local health centres, while those living off-reserve will be able to start booking online or via pharmacies on the first day.
Staff and residents in seniors supportive living facilities who are not already vaccinated will also be able to book appointments starting on the first day.
Alberta is averaging about 11,000 COVID-19 shots per day. Nearly 176,000 Albertans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 90,000 fully immunized with two doses.
“We’re not out of the pandemic yet, but as of (Thursday), there is more light at the end of the tunnel. We can see the other side and if all goes according to plan, we’re going to get there faster than we dared to hope, even a few weeks ago,” Shandro said.