There is confusion surrounding whether, and when, Albertans who received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get their second dose.
On Monday, Premier Jason Kenney said first dose appointments would be paused due to vaccine supply issues from Pfizer but that second dose appointments would not be cancelled.
Kenney said he believed the province could administer second doses to all who needed them within the recommended time frame.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw also said Monday that it seemed the province had enough vaccine in hand as well as what has been committed to offer a second dose to all those who booked their appointments.
However, Dr. Richard Bergstrom, an anesthesiologist at the University of Alberta Hospital, said he was told he could not be booked for his second dose appointment.
Bergstrom received his first dose of vaccine on Jan. 2 and his second dose appointment was scheduled for Jan. 23. When he went to confirm his appointment, he was told his booking was no longer there and could not be found.
He said he then tried to book his appointment through Health Link.
“I can’t. They not allowing the people at Health Link to schedule appointments. I was just basically told: ‘We can’t book you in for an appointment,’” he said.
Bergstrom said he is fine if that is the case, saying those more on the frontlines of the pandemic should take priority, but he said there needs to be transparency and accountability.
“Dr. Hinshaw needs to tell the truth. And the truth is we don’t know. We don’t know when we’re going to get more vaccine.
“But just let people know so you don’t keep hanging on the edge of the pool waiting to jump in.”
Bergstrom said he has not been given a timeline of when he will be able to book his second dose appointment.
Global News also spoke with a nurse who works in an Edmonton ICU; she spoke anonymously for fear of repercussions for speaking out.
The nurse said she was given her first dose of vaccine on Dec. 22 and was later told her second dose appointment would be on Jan. 19.
When she arrived at the vaccination site, she said she was told they could not find her name or her appointment. She was given a number to call to rebook but was then told they were not booking appointments right now and would call her again on Monday.
Now, the nurse is waiting.
“I don’t know why it can’t be figured out by the end of the week. My concern is that I missed my second appointment. With no date set for booking my second dose, what is the timeline I’m looking at? Will they rebook me, or will they say they ran out of vaccine?” she said.
The nurse said she is feeling concerned because Albertans were promised the second vaccination date would be honoured and she says there is a lack of transparency with booking the second dose.
“What are they not telling us? Are there no doses left?” she said.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said some of the booking tools being built for the vaccine rollout were not quite ready when doses started arriving in December.
“Some of the booking that was happening in December was being done through the systems that were already running and since the beginning of January, we have shifted into a single booking tool that AHS is running,” she said.
Hinshaw said she could not comment on the specifics of the above case but said AHS is prioritizing all second doses and is asking for people to be patient.
“Ideally those individuals would follow up with the people, the managers, they report to or the people in AHS with whom they work with to find out what next steps they can take” she said.
In a statement, AHS confirmed some eligible physicians and clinicians who booked first dose appointments earlier — manually — will be called back with details on their second dose.
“Due to uncertainty surrounding vaccine supply from the federal government, adjustments are being made to the COVID-19 vaccine implementation plan,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said.
“Some second dose appointments for eligible staff and physicians will need to be rescheduled.”
“Anyone whose appointment is being postponed or rescheduled will be contacted directly by AHS via email, and then a text or automated call,” he explained. “An email will also be sent to staff and physicians when they are able to rebook appointments. Staff and physicians are asked to not call Health Link at this time.”
AHS said vaccine has been reserved to ensure it can provide second doses to all long-term care and designated supportive living residents.
“We will also be using available vaccine to provide second doses to staff and physicians within the allowable window. Our goal is to provide second doses within the 42 days as directed by Alberta Health and recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.”
However, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that “some uncertainty exists because it is unknown how much vaccine will be received by Canada in the first two weeks of February.
“With fewer vaccines arriving, we have no choice but to focus on delivering second doses for those who have already been vaccinated,” Shandro said. “All new first dose appointments for eligible health-care workers are being postponed.
“Some second dose appointments will also need to be rescheduled in the coming weeks.
“This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control. We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible.”
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