Albertans who received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in April can start booking their second shots immediately, Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday.
The move accelerates the previous plan, which had been to open bookings on Monday for those Albertans.
“This means an additional 650,000 Albertans can now start booking their second doses right now,” Kenney told a news conference.
“This is great news, not just for those who will be fully vaccinated sooner than they thought, but for everyone in the province who will benefit from widespread immunity. Every day we can get further ahead of schedule is another day closer to the end of the pandemic.”
Appointments can be booked through Alberta Health Services and participating pharmacies and physician clinics.
Anyone who had AstraZeneca vaccine as a first dose is advised to wait at least eight weeks between doses. They can choose to have a second dose of AstraZeneca or one of the mRNA vaccines.
Albertans vaccinated in May are currently scheduled to begin booking their second dose starting June 28. The province will continue to accelerate second doses if supply allows, it said in a news release.
On Thursday, the province stepped closer to a restriction-free summer when it moved into Stage 2 of the reopening plan.
Restaurants can now offer indoor dining. Malls, casinos and movie theatres can reopen at one-third capacity. Private outdoor gatherings can include up to 20 people. Restrictions on youth and adult sport have been lifted.
The third and final stage of reopening will begin two weeks after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans — those aged 12 and up — have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
With 67.8 per cent of Albertans having received their first dose, Kenney said Alberta is 100,000 doses shy of the Stage 3 target.
About 71,000 first-dose appointments are booked over the next week, he said. As well, snowbirds who were vaccinated outside Canada are being urged to submit their records to Alberta Health Services.
“I would love it if we could just, like I say, shake the trees, get an extra 40,000 people to show up this week, and then we could have an open Canada Day,” he said.
Kenney said Alberta Health is looking into incentives, “including a possible lottery for people getting vaccinated.” Options will be brought to the next emergency management cabinet committee meeting on Monday.
Other jurisdictions have seen “an immediate and huge uptick” in vaccination rates after introducing incentives, Kenney said.
In Alberta, he said, it appears that younger men have been slower to get vaccinated.
“If one way of getting their attention — to make that booking or come in and get the jab at a walk-in clinic — is to enter them into some kind of incentive draw, then maybe it’s worth doing,” Kenney said.
“So we haven’t made final decisions but we’re giving it a serious look.”