Central Alberta seniors did not waste any time contacting Red Deer pharmacies on Thursday to book appointments for COVID-19 immunization.
Within the first three hours of opening, Shoppers Drug Mart in Clearview Market Square had received about 100 calls.
“As soon as people knew they were allowed to book at the pharmacy for immunization, they were all excited,” said pharmacist and store owner Aamir Hussain.
Despite the call volume, people could still get through, he added.
He said the store had been receiving calls for about a week prior to Wednesday’s announcement by Alberta Health that vaccine distribution was expanding to pharmacies.
Starting next week, about 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will offer COVID-19 immunization to seniors 75 and older.
The nine participating Red Deer pharmacies include: Johnstone IDA, Real Canadian Superstore, London Drugs (south), Notre Dame Pharmasave, Save-on-Foods (Glendale), Shoppers Drug Mart (Clearview and Bower Place), The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy and Walmart (Parkland).
Hussain said for now the pharmacy is taking people’s names and will get back to them to book appointments once it is known when the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will arrive.
“As soon as we confirm the arrival date of the vaccine, we’ll start booking right away. We book them for both doses. It’s important that people who receive their first dose also get their second dose.”
He said no walk-ins will be allowed to ensure the system is fair to everyone. People will receive a text to remind them one week, and one day, before their appointment.
“It’s important that people show up for their appointment. If you can’t, let us know, then we’ll call someone on the waiting list.”
He said the number of people accessing influenza immunization increased tremendously when it was made available at pharmacies, and commended the province for including pharmacies in the COVID immunization plan.
“You can easily have access to pharmacists. You can talk to them. You can call them with any questions and concerns. I think it’s a great idea,” Hussain said.
Walmart Canada said it was pleased its Parkland Mall location was included in Alberta’s vaccination pilot.
“Walmart Canada, and our pharmacies, are ready to help get Canadians immunized,” said Shelly Kiroff, senior vice president, Health and Wellness, Walmart Canada, in a statement.
“Throughout the pandemic, Canadians have come to Walmart for all their health, wellness and pharmacy needs – and we’re ready to support them with immunization too.”
Alberta Health Services will continue to book vaccines for all other eligible Albertans. Seniors age 75 and older who cannot access a community pharmacy can still book their appointments through the online booking tool.