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AHS COVID-19 vaccine booking website will be down for upgrades Wednesday morning

RN Sharon Dunn receives the COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary Jan. 22, 2021. Courtesy: Twitter/Alberta Health Services

After extremely high demand overwhelmed Alberta’s online COVID-19 immunization booking website, the tool will undergo upgrades that will take it offline for a couple of hours in the middle of the night on March 3.

Alberta Health Services said the site will be unavailable from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

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

Seniors 75 and older became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24. Between then and Monday, more than 123,000 seniors have made appointments to receive their first dose.

As of Monday, more than 235,000 Albertans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, of which over 31,000 are seniors who live in the community.

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More than 88,500 Albertans have been fully immunized, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.

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Alberta seniors hopeful for future as COVID-19 vaccines open to those 75 and older – Feb 25, 2021

Wednesday’s website upgrade will improve the capacity of the COVID-19 online immunization booking tool, AHS said, adding it will ensure Albertans continue to have access to a user-friendly, effective system to book their immunization appointments.

Booking immunization appointments through Health Link will also not be possible during the middle-of-the-night upgrade, however access to speak to a registered nurse for medical advice over the phone will be unaffected.

Access to the AHS website, including access to book COVID-19 swabbing tests during this time, will also remain unaffected.

As an alternate to booking through the AHS COVID-19 online immunization booking tool, seniors who are 75 or older can contact a participating pharmacy.

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Bookings are handled directly by the pharmacies, and a list of those participating can be found on the Alberta Blue Cross website.

Read more: What are the differences between Canada’s approved COVID-19 vaccines? Here’s what we know

Alberta is immunizing residents with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which both require two doses.

When Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech began distributing their vaccines late last year, it was recommended the first and second shots be completed within six weeks to be fully effective.

After B.C. announced Monday it was extending the time period between first and second doses to 112 days — or 16 weeks — Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province is considering something similar as well.

On Friday, Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for people over the age of 18, however the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended Monday that the shot not be given to people over the age of 65. 

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Alberta health minister says many details to be worked out after AstraZeneca vaccine approval – Feb 26, 2021

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine also requires two injections. It’s less effective, but also comes without the ultra-cold storage requirements of the other two vaccines.

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— With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED, and Rachael D’Amore, Global News

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