168 people show up for Day 1 of first dose vaccine blitz at Edmonton EXPO Centre

Wednesday was the first day of an Alberta Health Service's (AHS) initiative meant to rally Edmontonians who have yet to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine doses.

As Alberta closes in on its goal to distribute first doses to 70 per cent of its population, the province has slipped down to tenth place in the country for first shots received.

Government of Alberta statistics show as of Tuesday 67.2 per cent of Albertans over 12 years old have received a first dose. https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#immunizations 

Now, a new push from AHS will allow anyone aged 12 or older who hasn't received their first shot to show up to the EXPO Centre, from Wednesday to Friday, to get a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

According to one AHS official, with roughly 30 vaccinations every hour, so far the so-called vaccine blitz is going well.

"If we do 30 an hour it's probably 250 people for the day," Selene Tash, executive director for AHS community health services, told CTV News Edmonton from outside the EXPO Centre. "That's 250 more people immunized with their first doses."

"We were preparing for 100 to 200 walk-ins for the day, so we’ve got the staffing and we can accommodate it," added Tash.

According to AHS,168 people showed up for the first day of its vaccine blitz.

Tash says while the Edmonton EXPO Centre is capable of accommodating up to 6,000 vaccinations a day, that's not happening right now.

"We're doing one to 2,000 immunizations here today," she said.

That number includes people with appointments for second doses. 

The AHS official said she expects there may be other vaccine blitzes to come.

"I think it's gone really well," said Tash. "From a walk-in point of view, we're always looking at the best way to get Albertans out."

WHY THE WAIT?

CTV News Edmonton spoke with people showing up for their first doses on Wednesday, and found there were a variety of reasons they had waited.

"I was undecided," said Josephine Kasasa.

Some may have been giving in to peer pressure after being originally unsure.

"My fiance got the vaccine, he's doing OK, so that changed my mind," said Haja Kamara, "and a few friends also got the vaccine so that changed my mind too."

"All my colleagues have had it. I feel that I should have it too so that I will be able to protect myself and others."

One man said he'd had trouble with the online booking system.

"Registered at some shop or grocery store, and then I haven't heard nothing," Andre Audette said. "I checked the computer, my email, nobody calls, no nothing."

According to AHS, the pace of first dose distribution has slowed over the past week, a trend that includes Edmonton. 

"I think we're pretty comparable," said Tash, "and we certainly work together across the province to make sure that Albertans - where they want to get immunized, they're able to get immunized."

Right now, the following 20 Alberta communities are also offering a walk-in option:

  • Brooks 
  • Calgary 
  • Camrose 
  • Drayton Valley 
  • Drumheller 
  • Edmonton 
  • Fort Macleod 
  • Fort McMurray 
  • Grande Prairie 
  • High Level 
  • Lethbridge 
  • Magrath 
  • Medicine Hat 
  • Raymond 
  • Red Deer 
  • Rocky Mountain House 
  • Stettler 
  • Taber 
  • Vegreville
  • Wainwright 

Full details on locations, dates and times for the walk-in vaccinations are available online.

The AHS vaccine blitz continues at the EXPO Centre on Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., then again on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.