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Alberta’s top doctor is urging patience a day before seniors born in 1946 and earlier become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says there are 230,000 seniors in this age group, in addition to health-care workers and people in other priority groups still waiting for their shots.

She says any eligible seniors who want to be immunized should be able to get their first dose by the end of March, but there may be hiccups along the way.

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The doses will be available by appointment at 58 Alberta Health Services sites, and Hinshaw says pharmacies and doctors’ offices will be added later.

Hinshaw also says it’s not a done deal that the next phase of Alberta’s staged reopening plan, which includes eased restrictions on retail, banquet halls and hotels, will begin on March 1.

She says while hospitalizations are down, the test positivity rate and number of new people infected by each case are on the rise.

The decision will depend on whether those increases are due to local issues that can be brought under control or if it’s a more general spread across the province, she said.

Hinshaw said it’s possible that restrictions will be eased on the same day a decision is announced.

“I recognize it’s challenging for businesses who are looking for certainty around dates and timelines,” she told a news conference Tuesday.

“But we did need the additional time to be able to look at the full three-weeks of data following the first step to be able to understand what’s happening with our numbers, where is spread happening and if we need to take longer or a more cautious approach going forward.”

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Alberta reported 267 new COVID-19 infections in its Tuesday update, along with 11 additional deaths from the virus.

Hinshaw said there were 6,300 tests done in the past day and that 4.4 per cent came back positive.

There were 326 COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals, including 51 in intensive care.

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