Lineups and long waits for Edmonton seniors at COVID-19 vaccine facility

Click to play video: 'Massive lineups for COVID-19 vaccines in Alberta' Massive lineups for COVID-19 vaccines in Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: More challenges on Day 2 of the vaccine rollout for Albertans who are 75 years and up. Massive lineups snaked around some locations as Albertans waited for their turn on Thursday. As Morgan Black reports, some spent hours in line. – Feb 25, 2021

Editor’s note: This story originally stated the province is in Phase 2A of its vaccine rollout program. At the time this article was published, it was actually in Phase 1B. 630 CHED regrets the error.

Alberta Health Services said it is adding additional staff and signage to all COVID-19 vaccine sites after seniors in Edmonton reported long lineups and lengthy wait times when they showed up for their appointments on Thursday.

Family members of those getting vaccinated at a location in north Edmonton in the area of 133 Street and 137 Avenue told Global News they had been waiting long past their relatives’ appointment times and they still weren’t in the building.

Read more: Alberta seniors hopeful for future as COVID-19 vaccines open to those 75 and older

AHS said signage and staff will encourage those waiting for their vaccine appointment to wait in their vehicles until their appointment time.

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Jose Legaspi was there with his 78-year-old sister, whose appointment was scheduled for 1:40 p.m. When they arrived and saw the long line, Legaspi said he asked a security guard what they should do. He says the security guard suggested coming back.

“The problem is, when you get here the line is already that long and they’ve been standing there for half an hour,” he said.

His sister has had a hip replacement so standing in line that long is difficult for her.

“They should have scheduled the appointments properly so you don’t have anyone standing in line, especially senior citizens.”

Long lines and crowds of people are seen inside a vaccination facility on Day 1 of Phase 1B of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Feb. 25, 2021.
Long lines and crowds of people are seen inside a vaccination facility on Day 1 of Phase 1B of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Feb. 25, 2021. Courtesy: Ed Jay

Jein Greenough was outside waiting for her 83-year-old husband. It was almost 2 p.m. when she spoke with Global News and his appointment was at 1:20 p.m. At that point, he had been waiting in line for almost 50 minutes and wasn’t anywhere near the entrance to the building.

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“It’s just a total exercise in frustration,” she said.

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“It’s the least organized thing I’ve ever experienced. And you know what? It’s not as if they didn’t know this was going to happen.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta COVID-19 booking site experiences issues as appointments open' Alberta COVID-19 booking site experiences issues as appointments open
Alberta COVID-19 booking site experiences issues as appointments open – Feb 24, 2021

Flora Rizzuto was also waiting outside for her husband. She said the two were online all day Wednesday trying to get him an appointment amid major delays that plagued the system.

“After what we did yesterday trying to get an appointment, I thought it might be a bit more organized coming here,” she said. “But it just seems like anybody can line up at any time no matter what time your appointment’s for.”

Read more: Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking site experiences ‘very high volumes’ as appointments open to those 75 and older

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In its statement, AHS assured that everyone with an appointment would still be vaccinated, despite the long lines.

Thursday marked the second day of Phase 1B, which sees seniors 75 and over living in the community eligible for the vaccine.

Both the online and phone system saw massive delays on Wednesday as people attempted to book their appointment.

According to Alberta Health Services, more than 82,000 Alberta seniors had made an appointment to be vaccinated as of Thursday morning.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that number had increased to 100,000 seniors 75 and older.

“This is a significant milestone for our province and it deserves to be celebrated,” he said.

Shandro also announced the online booking tool is now capable of handling more than 5,000 bookings per hour and the long wait times have subsided.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 vaccines set to be delivered at some Alberta pharmacies' COVID-19 vaccines set to be delivered at some Alberta pharmacies
COVID-19 vaccines set to be delivered at some Alberta pharmacies – Feb 24, 2021

Shandro has asked AHS to add more servers to increase online capacity, hire more staff and add more phone lines over and above what may be needed in the future.

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For Greenough though, the initial rollout fell short. She felt felt AHS should have kept in mind the age group when organizing the vaccine rollout.

“There are people in line that can’t stand. People that have a bad hip. This is absolutely, utterly ridiculous.”

The Global News crew on site captured photos and video of very long lines and vehicles snaking around the parking lot trying to find parking.

People and vehicles filled the parking lot on Day 1 of seniors 75 and older eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 25, 2021. Morris Gamblin/Global News

While frustrated, Rizzuto tried to keep a positive attitude.

“We’ve waited a year,” she said. “So another hour, I don’t think it’ll hurt.”

According to AHS, some people were showing up 30 minutes to an hour before their appointment. Anyone coming to receive a vaccine is asked to arrive at the location no more than 10 minutes early and wait in their vehicles until five minutes before their appointment.

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“Each appointment is booked in 10-minute increments,” AHS said in a statement. “This helps ensure we can maintain social distancing at all immunization clinics.”

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