People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

The president of Alberta’s health delivery agency is apologizing for problems residents experienced earlier this week when they tried booking COVID-19 vaccinations for older family members.

Alberta Health Services president Dr. Verna Yiu says in a statement that the agency “made an error in judgement” in how they “stress-tested” their online booking system.

Yiu also says they underestimated the number of Albertans 75 years and over who would call 811 and go online to book at launch time.

Many people spent hours Wednesday being kicked off the government’s booking website or getting busy signals on the phone when the province opened immunizations to people born in 1946 or earlier.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said at the time that the website was temporarily overwhelmed, but noted the health service has added more network capacity and staff.

Yiu says AHS had planned for tens of thousands at a time to book appointments, but demand “far exceeded” that figure and restuled in technical issues that took several hours to resolve.”

“I want to publicly and personally apologize to anyone who experienced frustration, anger, or worry over what should be a hopeful time in the pandemic response,” Yiu said in the statement, which was posted on the AHS website Friday.

Yiu also acknowledged there were lineups at several immunization clinics, acknowledging that public confidence in Alberta’s ability to deliver immunizations has been shaken.

“No one wants to line up outside in the Alberta winter, and no one should,” she said, noting everyone who has an appointment is being vaccinated.

“We have put in place better line management and process at the sites to encourage people to wait in their vehicles until their time slot.”

Yiu said technical issues have been fixed, a virtual waiting room is in place, and the system is stable.

Yiu said more than 120,000 Albertans signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine over a two-day period, more than half the population in the eligible age group.

She said Alberta has already immunized upwards of 12,000 seniors aged 75 and over.

Alberta recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional virus-related deaths on Friday.

There were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in intensive care.

The Canadian Press

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