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COVID-19: AHS South zone introduces walk-in vaccine service for youths age 12-17

Click to play video: 'Youth walk-in clinics for COVID-19 vaccination open in the South zone' Youth walk-in clinics for COVID-19 vaccination open in the South zone
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Health Services had added walk-in services across the South zone for youth born between 2004 and 2009 to get their first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. Danica Ferris has more. – Jul 13, 2021

Appointments are no longer needed for those age 12 to 17 in Alberta Health Services’ South zone to get their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more: COVID-19: Southern Alberta communities lagging behind on first-dose immunizations

Fourteen walk-in vaccine clinics across the south — including Exhibition Park in Lethbridge — are now welcoming anyone born in 2004 to 2009, seven days a week, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“We’re trying to improve the uptake among our youth,” said Allison Gonsalves, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services’ South zone.

“We know that vaccine is an important way to try and beat COVID-19. We’ve been in this pandemic for 15 months and it’s been very trying on absolutely everyone, including our youth.”

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Albertans under the age of 18 are currently only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. According to AHS, parental consent should be provided in the form of either a parent or guardian present at the clinic, or a signed consent form.

Read more: AHS notifying 10 people in southern Alberta their COVID-19 vaccine is ‘potentially ineffective’ after error

“Parental consent is required to get the vaccine and I encourage youth who are interested in the vaccine to discuss with their parents and health-care practitioners about the benefits of the vaccine,” said Gonsalves. “And also to talk with people who have had the vaccine as well, about their experience with the doses.”

Youth walk-in service is in addition to drop-in clinics that have been ongoing for adults in Oyen, Brooks, Bow Island, Foremost, Taber, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Raymond, Milk River, Magrath, Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod, Crowsnest Pass and Cardston.

First doses have significantly slowed down province-wide since Alberta passed the 70 per cent threshold on June 17.

According to Alberta Health, as of Tuesday morning, 74.1 per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while more than 55 per cent of the 12-and-up population was fully vaccinated.

Uptake in Lethbridge has been among the best in the province, with more than 77 per cent of those eligible having received a first dose, including nearly 82 per cent of west-side residents.

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Read more: COVID-19 vaccine makes University of Lethbridge students eligible to win full tuition

But many rural areas in the South zone have continued to see vaccine hesitancy, with a number of communities sitting below 60 per cent for first doses, including Cypress County (59.1 per cent), Lethbridge County (57.3 per cent), the County of Warner (55.9 per cent) and Fort Macleod (53.9 per cent).

The M.D. of Taber has only had 45.7 per cent of eligible residents receive a first jab, while the County of Forty Mile had only seen 38.6 per cent as of Tuesday morning.

“It has been a little bit slower in the rural areas, but that’s just a question of maybe doing some outreach, figuring out why people are a little bit more hesitant to get the vaccine,” said Gonsalves.

“But we’re doing pretty good — I have to say — overall, as a zone.”

Full walk-in clinic details, including locations, dates and operating hours are available on the AHS website.

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