Alberta's one-stop vaccine booking website delayed until later this year
Premier Jason Kenney said the website was going to be live this month
Alberta is delaying the rollout of the centralized vaccine booking system that was supposed to launch this month. The government is now saying it will launch later this year.
Premier Jason Kenney said at a May 11 news conference that a one-stop centralized booking system was in the works. It would let people book vaccine appointments at Alberta Health Services clinics, pharmacies and participating doctor's offices.
"This will help not only roll out the COVID-19 vaccine but flu shots and other vaccines too," Kenney said then.
A centralized booking website, which exists in places like Nova Scotia and Yukon, would allow those eligible to book their vaccine appointments through a single website.
But now, Albertans who will soon become eligible for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine won't have access to the one-stop website this month.
The launch of the Alberta Vaccine Booking System has been moved to "later in the year to ensure that we keep administering vaccine doses as efficiently as possible in June and July," Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan wrote on Tuesday.
"In the coming weeks, millions of Albertans will be eligible for their second doses so we don't want to disrupt existing processes — both for Albertans and immunization providers," McMillan wrote in a statement.
Pharmacist Katrina Wilson-Kubota, who owns a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Spruce Grove, saw a version of the province's one-stop booking system last month during a briefing with the province and other pharmacists.
Wilson-Kubota said although the site would be more user-friendly for people, it was lacking the consent forms, health questions and COVID-19 screening questions she currently uses before administering a vaccine.
She and other colleagues expressed concerns about introducing Alberta's centralized booking system during the second COVID-19 dose rollout.
"On one hand, I see the value of having that one place for everybody to go. But then on my clinical side, I would still have to do both. So that's not the best mesh for me in my setting," she said.
Volunteer vaccine appointment finders have emerged across the province to try and help Albertans find the earliest bookings.
Sarah Mackey, a volunteer with VaxHuntersAB, said the delay in rolling out a centralized vaccine website doesn't help get vaccines into arms.
"All it's done is just contribute to this culture of last-minute confusion, constantly changing processes," she said.
Wilson-Kubota said colleagues in Nova Scotia told her that province's central booking system has worked seamlessly.
"If that one was working so well there, and it seems to be working well from both sides — patient side and professional side — then that might have been something to look at earlier on where it might have been a bit more useful in the booking process right from the beginning," she said.
A spokesperson for CANImmunize, the company that worked on Nova Scotia and Yukon's central booking systems, said they spoke with Alberta government officials earlier this spring about "digital immunization solutions for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout" but there were no "subsequent actions."
Alberta Health did not confirm who is developing the centralized booking tool, how much it will cost to develop or when it will be rolled out.
"We know pharmacy staff are just doing the best that they can and they are doing a great job of just getting as many people vaccinated as possible in these truly impossible circumstances," said Mackey.
"We appreciate that. We wish that the government was doing more to support that incredibly important work that they're doing."