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Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine booking system launches for those 80-plus

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to provide a COVID-19 update at 1 p.m. ET on Monday.

You’ll be able to watch live in this story. 

Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine booking system launched both by phone and online Monday morning, with thousands logging on within minutes. 

Toronto nurse Stephanie Prosper told CBC News this morning she had been trying to book vaccine appointments online for her aunt, uncle and their neighbour, who are all seniors living in Niagara.

Prosper said she was able to get onto the system and fill out the required information by 8:05 a.m. — just five minutes after the government website and an accompanying phone line officially went live. 

By then, there were already 10,000 people ahead of her in the queue, with her wait time estimated to be “more than an hour.” 

Prosper, who works in a COVID-19 assessment centre, said she is worried about people navigating the site who aren’t tech-savvy. 

“A lot of the seniors don’t really have computers, some of them don’t have family members to help them,” she told Metro Morning host Ismaila Alfa on Monday morning. 

Some who went on to the site shared their successes on social media.

“My in-laws (with the help of their doting son) both got COVID-19 vaccine appointments for next Tuesday at City Hall. I can’t believe how happy and relieved I am,” one Ottawa resident said on Twitter.

Others took issue with the time required to reserve a spot.

“Already frustrated with this new Ontario vaccine booking system. While trying to book for an older person went on at 8 am and found I have to wait over 20 minutes to do an online booking and phone lines all ringing busy,” one wrote.

Only try to book an appointment if you’re eligible, province warns 

Premier Doug Ford said Sunday that early tests of the provincial vaccine portal have been “seamless” in the run up to today’s formal launch.

But he said it’s crucial that only eligible residents make use of the system. For now, that group consists solely of those 80 and older.

“This could not be more important,” Ford said at a rare Sunday morning news conference.

“If you are not 80 or older, or helping somebody who is, please do not try to book an appointment. We need to take care of our elderly first.”

While many of Ontario’s 34 public health units have already established their own systems for booking vaccination appointments, the provincial portal will now either enhance or fully replace those setups in many areas.

In addition to allowing vaccine-seekers to book their shots, the portal also provides instructions on how to schedule appointments based on protocols in place in each specific health unit.

The province said people who are eligible to get vaccinated can book online here, while those wishing to schedule by phone can call 1-888-999-6488.

First and second vaccination appointments will be arranged at the same time, the government said, noting people will be asked to provide their provincial health card details, birth date, postal code and email address or phone number.

Ford said the booking system will be open to other age groups in April as part of the next phase of Ontario’s vaccine rollout.

Vaccines rolling out at quarter of Ontario’s capacity: Ford 

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, said more than 2,200 operators will be registering patients on Monday, with a capacity to take approximately 10,000 calls per hour.

More than 800,000 appointments will be available through the online portal, he added.

Hillier said it seems like all systems are go ahead of Monday’s launch, but the province is prepared for all possibilities.

“We are confident in the system itself. But we all know that in many places, there are some hiccups,” said Hillier.

“Sometimes the systems go down for a while. And if it does go down for a while, we’ll fix it and get it back up.”

The launch of the provincial portal marks the latest step in Ontario’s mass immunization drive, which introduced new elements targeting some 60- to 64-year-olds in recent days.

A pilot project allowing pharmacies to administer shots launched last week in the Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington health units.

Family doctors in six other public health units — Toronto, Peel, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough and Simcoe-Muskoka — also began delivering vaccines to eligible patients in the same age bracket as of Saturday.

Both pilot projects will see eligible residents receive shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ontario has the resources to administer 4.8 million vaccines per month, said Ford, but the rollout is running at about a quarter of that capacity because of limited supply.

“I know the federal government’s trying. They’re doing their best,” he said. “All I’m pointing out is we just don’t have enough vaccines. Simple as that.”

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