Alberta launches final push to boost 1st dose vaccination numbers

Alberta health officials are making one last big push to reach people still waiting to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by adding more walk-in clinics this week.

3-day blitz of walk-in appointments offered in several communities

Josh Mawhinney, 21, got the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton on June 1. AHS is making a push to get more people aged 12 to 40 jabbed with a first dose of vaccine. (AHS)

Alberta health officials are making one last big push to reach people still waiting to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by adding more walk-in clinics this week.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) started offering walk-in appointments on Wednesday for first doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The three-day blitz is happening at the Edmonton Expo Centre and Calgary's Telus Convention Centre as well as in 19 other communities around the province.

"What we want are the people that will push us over the line of herd immunity. And that is going to be those individuals that have not yet had their first dose. So that's really the emphasis for this week in particular," said Dr. Cheri Nijssen-Jordan, the co-lead for the AHS COVID-19 vaccine task force.

She said she knows many people are itching to get their second dose, but it's more vital to build herd immunity with that first dose before moving ahead full steam on second doses.

"If you start to say, 'OK, well, we'll do our second doses,' then we would be flooded with people that do want to get their second dose, because we know that they've already shown that they are keen and eager," she said.

"Right now, our emphasis is on that first dose to get us over the line," she said, noting the province is almost there.

But at the Telus Convention Centre, where 2,000 doses were made available, at last count only about 400 were delivered.

The province says demand for first doses of the vaccine has been slowing in recent days, while second doses have been ramping up. 

From June 6 to 8, daily numbers for first doses in Alberta were 10,416, 10,031 and 8,385. For second doses, the numbers were 16,218, 26,846 and 24,165 over those same dates.

Nijssen-Jordan said it's the 12 to 40 age group that appears to be the hardest to reach.

"Oh, believe me, I spend most of my day trying to think, 'OK, what other pocket can we do that with the resources that we have and working with the partners that we've got,'" she said.

AHS is looking at partnering with schools or after-school programs in order to get more young people vaccinated.

Nicole Schmidt, president of the Students' Union at the University of Calgary, thinks that would be smart.

"I think with the University of Lethbridge, the free tuition draw for students who've been vaccinated has been wildly popular … so I would really encourage university administration to look into doing something similar," she said.

"I would really encourage, from the university side of things, some of them to put out some sort of incentive to reach students and get [them] vaccinated."

With files from Colleen Underwood


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