Albertans under the age of 75 will be able to start booking their vaccinations in two weeks.
On Thursday, Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the province is moving into the Phase 2A portion of the vaccine roll out plan.
Next week, Albertans between the ages of 65 and 74 will start booking appointments to receive the first doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. First Nations, Métis and Inuit persons aged 50 and older will also be eligible, regardless of where they live.
"I'm pleased to say bookings for Phase 2A will begin the week of March 15. Now, this means more than 437,000 Albertans between the ages of 65 and 74 will soon be offered the vaccine," Shandro said.
The province expects anyone over the age of 18 will be able to get a vaccine by the end of June, thanks to vaccine supplies picking up, new vaccines being approved, and a new roll out strategy.
This phase of the vaccine roll out plan will be different from the previous one. When Phase 2A starts on March 15, only those aged 73 and 74 will be able to book. The next day, the eligibility will open up further to include those who are 71 and 72.
Once a person becomes eligible for the vaccine they will stay eligible, so no Albertan will miss their chance to get their doses, Shandro said.
"Once you're eligible you stay eligible. No one is left behind."
Staff and residents at supportive-living facilities who haven't received the vaccine yet will be able to book appointments starting the week of March 15.
All appointments can be made through participating pharmacies, the online booking tool and HealthLink (811).
AstraZeneca offered for under 64
Some 58,500 Albertans between the ages of 50 and 64 who are healthy will also be able to start booking their first doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been proven to be less effective on those who are 65 and older, so the dose is being reserved for younger cohorts.
"These Albertans will have a choice. They can book an appointment now for the AstraZeneca or they can wait to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when Phase 2D begins in early May," Shandro said.
Shandro said the AstraZeneca vaccine is 60 to 70 per cent effective against COVID-19, and 80 per cent effective in preventing severe outcomes like hospitalization.
"Both Dr. Hinshaw and I recommend that all healthy Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible, no matter what vaccine option is provided. AstraZeneca works," Shandro said.
"Where this vaccine seems to differ is in preventing asymptomatic infection, which means reducing the spread of COVID-19."
Hinshaw said it can be difficult to compare the efficacy of vaccines because studies are done at different times on different groups of people, which may impact the results of the study. Evidence on vaccines is evolving and changing as different countries start to use them.
"I want to stress that all the vaccines currently approved for use in Canada will reduce the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death," Hinshaw said.
"All three have passed the rigorous regulatory approval processes in place to ensure they are safe for all Canadians, and all three offers significant levels of protection from the virus. No matter your current age or overall health, I strongly recommend all Albertans are vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible."
Starting March 10, the province will offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to adults between the ages of 50-64 in Phase2D. Albertans born in 1957 can book their appointments on March 10. Albertans born between 1958 to 1971 will be offered a chance to book in the following days, rolling one year at a time.
Anyone who is part of Phase 2B or 2C are ineligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine due to age, chronic health conditions or living arrangements.
Friday marks the one-year anniversary since COVID-19 was first detected in Alberta and Hinshaw said the province has come a long way.
"We are close. We just need to keep going until we have wide-spread immunization."
Across Alberta, there were 331 new cases of COVID-19 detected in the 9,500 tests run, with a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent.
There are active alerts or outbreaks in 230 schools, or 10 per cent of schools across the province. Since Jan. 11, there have been a total of 895 cases of COVID-19 detected in schools.
Another 33 new cases of the COVID-19 variant was detected overnight, bringing the provincial total up to 541 cases.
There are currently 245 people in the hospital with 47 of those in intensive care. Nine new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the past 24 hours.
Read more from StAlbertToday.ca