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AHS ‘actively recruiting’ more staff to help with COVID-19 immunization

Click to play video 'Moderna vaccine distribution begins in Alberta' Moderna vaccine distribution begins in Alberta
WATCH: Albertans most at-risk have started receiving the Moderna vaccine. On Wednesday, health care workers took the first batch of doses to seniors' facilities. But there's criticism vaccination distribution isn't happening fast enough. Fletcher Kent reports. – Dec 30, 2020

Alberta Health Services said Wednesday it is “actively recruiting additional staff” to join its COVID-19 immunization team.

In a series of messages on Twitter, the health organization explained it wants to add more staff so it can vaccinate “as many Albertans as quickly as possible.”

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta’s 1st Moderna vaccine dose given to Medicine Hat long-term care resident

“In addition to our public health immunizers, we are also actively recruiting other health-care providers, retirees, undergraduate nurses and community pharmacists to provide immunizations across the province,” AHS said.

“We will adjust the number of additional staff needed as the vaccine continues to arrive but already have received interest from hundreds of people, so we are confident we will be adequately staffed to meet our targets.

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“While we continue to recruit, we are also utilizing our existing workforce, including paying overtime when operationally required, to ensure we have the staff we need to deliver all vaccine available at this time,” AHS added.

Read more: Alberta receives 16,900 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

The province initially set a goal of vaccinating 29,000 Albertans by the end of the year.

Premier Jason Kenney admitted Tuesday that Alberta won’t reach that goal. He said it was because AHS had been “cautiously” holding back half the vaccine for those requiring second doses and because Pfizer said the shot could only be given at the location the vaccine was delivered.

Click to play video 'Alberta missed COVID-19 vaccination goal but is picking up the pace: Kenney' Alberta missed COVID-19 vaccination goal but is picking up the pace: Kenney
Alberta missed COVID-19 vaccination goal but is picking up the pace: Kenney – Dec 30, 2020

As of Dec. 29, data showed 8,544 Albertans had been given the COVID-19 vaccine. That puts Alberta near the bottom of the list for per-capita vaccinations.

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As of Tuesday, Ontario had administered about 14,000 doses (95 vaccinations per 100,000 people), Quebec had administered 22,500 doses (265 per 100,000) and B.C. had given about 12,000 doses (277 per 100,000).

Read more: Should provinces reserve COVID-19 vaccine 2nd doses or administer them all right away?

Kenney said Tuesday about 4,000 more doses were scheduled to be administered in the next few days, which would bring Alberta’s total up to about 11,000.

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As of Dec. 30 (Wednesday), 11,102 doses had been administered, according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Nationally, Canada is lagging behind countries like the U.S. and Israel, whose vaccination rates are four times and 39 times higher than Canada’s, respectively.

Click to play video 'Alberta rolls out more COVID-19 vaccine after initially holding back some for 2nd doses' Alberta rolls out more COVID-19 vaccine after initially holding back some for 2nd doses
Alberta rolls out more COVID-19 vaccine after initially holding back some for 2nd doses – Dec 29, 2020

On Monday, Global News asked Alberta’s chief medical officer of health how the province would staff the vaccine program while the health-care system — particularly the human resources side — was already being pushed to the limit.

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Hinshaw said the health-care workers who would normally provide vaccinations aren’t usually the same group who work in intensive care units or COVID-19 wards.

“The staff who are being deployed to deliver vaccines are staff that typically work in other areas, for example in immunization of school-aged children or… occupational health and safety teams, are typically doing other tasks,” she said.

Click to play video 'Alberta working with ethicists, advisory committee to determine who gets COVID-19 vaccine next' Alberta working with ethicists, advisory committee to determine who gets COVID-19 vaccine next
Alberta working with ethicists, advisory committee to determine who gets COVID-19 vaccine next – Dec 28, 2020

“The other piece of the work that Alberta Health Services is doing to make sure they are ready should we need to care for increasing numbers of people with COVID-19, is that they are looking at some of the services that can be deferred or delayed and they’re redeploying health-care workers from those services into areas where COVID-19 patients are being cared for,” Hinshaw added.

“It’s looking at all the available health-care workers, looking at the skill sets they have, and having them allocated to the work where they can provide that greatest benefit, which of course does unfortunately mean that in some cases, other health-care services are needing to be delayed or cancelled until such time as we can get our COVID numbers down again.”

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As of Wednesday, there were 921 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 152 of whom were in ICU.

Those interested in applying to join the immunization team should go to http://ahs.ca/careers and search “public health.”

Those interested in applying for nursing positions can click here and indicate their interest in immunization or other roles.