As the portal to booking vaccinations opened to the 70-year-old age group Monday, residents in Niagara-on-the-Lake reported difficulties getting appointments.
It seemed hit-and-miss, with some people reporting getting through and booking appointments, and others being told early in the day there was no availability.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara’s acting chief medical officer of health, estimated about five per cent of seniors trying to book vaccination appointments had trouble Monday, but the rest were able to get a time and date for their first shot.
He asked people not to call public health, explaining it’s the provincial system that is experiencing issues.
Although some municipalities have developed their own online registration systems, Hirji said he didn’t think that would help in Niagara — there would still be problems, but with the region having to shoulder the responsibility to fix them.
Although there were “thousands” of available appointments Monday morning, Hirji said, by 3 p.m. Monday public health sent an email saying all appointments for all Niagara clinics were booked.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she was hearing “mixed reviews” from those trying to book appointments, with one local telling her she was able to get an appointment Monday for the same day, and others struggling to find any time slots available.
Although there are no new dates for NOTL clinics at this time, she was hoping there will be in the next few weeks.
There were expected to be 8,500 new appointments for Niagara clinics in the booking system early this week, and more later this week. Public Health is planning more clinics for April 11 and 12 in Niagara Falls, at the MacBain Community Centre; April 13 and 14 in Port Colborne; April 15 and 16 in Grimsby; and April 17 and 18 in Welland.
More dates and locations will be added, but probably not until the latter half of April, Hirji said.
He suggested residents keep trying the provincial portal Ontario.ca/bookvaccine for availability, or if they are having trouble finding a location, to call a booking operator at 1-888-999-6488.
By Monday afternoon, residents were finding new dates and availability for those 70 and over at the Seymour-Hannah clinic, from April 5 to 11.
There will be enough appointments for all residents 70 years of age (27,000 more people) and up once Niagara Health and Public Health both get their clinic schedules online, Hirji said.
During Monday’s weekly meeting with reporters, he spoke of “night and day” with the number of cases seen earlier this year in long-term care homes, and what happens if there is an infection now.
A couple of months ago, an infection would spread quickly through long-term care and retirement homes, whereas, thanks to vaccinations, that isn’t happening now.
“I hope this is a message everybody else in society takes, that these vaccines are really working, and we should all be taking them, so we can make sure we get out of this pandemic,” he said.