People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Albertans are voting with their feet and arms as they line up and sign up in droves to get the vaccine now available to those 40 and older. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Albertans lining up, signing up as eligibility for AstraZeneca COVID vaccine expands

Albertans lining up, signing up as eligibility for AstraZeneca COVID vaccine expands

EDMONTON — Albertans were voting with their feet and arms Tuesday as they lined up and signed up to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The response came as cases and hospitalizations continued to rise, powered by more contagious variants. Thousands more students in Edmonton joined those in Calgary and Fort McMurray in moving to online learning at home.

Premier Jason Kenney said the decision to lower the age eligibility for the vaccine to 40 resulted in 27,000-plus bookings and big lineups on the first day.

“That is more uptake in one day than in all of last week, so well done to everybody who is participating,” Kenney told a news conference.

“With COVID-19 cases at high levels throughout the province, we want as many folks as possible to be able to choose the protection that this vaccine offers.”

Kenney said he, too, is now eligible and booked his AstraZeneca shot for Thursday.

The age change makes another 575,000 people eligible, but Kenney cautioned that only 160,000 AstraZeneca doses remain. Future shipments are in question given that the government in India, which supplies the vaccine to Canada, has temporarily banned exports.

In Edmonton, up to 100 people stood in line at lunchtime outside the Expo Centre mass vaccination clinic. Thirty cars were waiting to enter the grounds.

Jody Dewaal, 52, found out Monday that she was finally eligible to get vaccinated and decided to head to the Expo Centre the next day.

“It’s about time,” Dewaal said.

“We’ve been waiting. I have senior parents and I have a child who has asthma, so we just like to have some kind of protection.”

Alberta has joined Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia in offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone 40 and older. Saskatchewan announced Tuesday it was doing the same. Quebec said it was lowering the age to 45.

The shot had been limited to those over 55, but Alberta said it lowered the age based on new health data and because thousands of doses were being left unused.

Vaccine hesitancy has been an issue among the older age group following reports globally of rare blood clots developing in some who received the AstraZeneca product. One Albertan has been affected, has been treated and is recovering at home.

Kenney, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have stressed the blood clots are extremely rare and have urged Albertans to take AstraZeneca.

Hinshaw and Shandro posted pictures of themselves on social media Tuesday getting the vaccine.

“The risks of adverse reactions (of AstraZeneca) are minuscule compared to the risks of COVID-19,” said Kenney. “Anyone infected with COVID-19 is much more likely to experience a blood clot from COVID than they are from the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

AstraZeneca is one of multiple vaccines available but the only one open to the 40-plus cohort. So far, more than 1.1 million Albertans have received at least one dose.

Kenney has said the situation has become a race between the spread of COVID-19 variants and getting a critical mass of Albertans vaccinated.

Alberta has more than 18,000 active cases. There have been well over a thousand new cases every day for the last two weeks.

Hinshaw said there were 1,345 new cases along with 476 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday. Of those, 105 were in intensive care. There were five more deaths for a total of 2,048.

She said the variants, which are far more contagious than the original strain and can result in worse health outcomes, made up 57 per cent of active cases.

The surge has left school boards scrambling to deal with quarantines and staff shortages. The Calgary and Fort McMurray school boards already moved all Grades 7 to 12 learning to at-home. On Tuesday, the Edmonton Catholic and public boards followed. They said those grades would learn remotely as of Thursday for at least two weeks.

“This is a difficult decision to make, but the safety and wellness of students, staff and families is our top priority,” said a news release from Edmonton Public Schools.

In the legislature, Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley urged Kenney and his United Conservative government to work with her to fast-track legislation to allow people to get three hours off with pay, if necessary, to get vaccinated.

Kenney was receptive and said he would get back to Notley on Wednesday after consulting with officials.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

The Minnesota Wild celebrate their overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal at 3:20 of overtime… Continue reading

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., celebrates after hitting a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Girardi, Segura have confrontation as Phils lose to Jays

Blue Jays 10 Phillies 8 DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — The injury-depleted Philadelphia… Continue reading

New York Islanders' Kyle Palmieri (21) returns to the bench after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Palmieri’s OT winner lifts Isles by Penguins 4-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders brought Kyle Palmieri home at… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

ATLANTA (AP) — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Feds face growing calls for answers after general overseeing vaccine effort sidelined

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is facing growing calls for answers… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Most Read