COVID-19 vaccine bookings for babies and toddlers open in Ontario

By Holly McKenzie-Sutter and Maan Alhmidi

Parents excitedly logged on to Ontario’s vaccine booking portal Thursday morning to set up long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine appointments for their babies and preschoolers.

The booking system for pediatric vaccine appointments for children aged six months to under five years opened at 8 a.m.

Toronto mom Isabelle Duchaine said she was relieved to have appointments set for Friday for her two toddlers — aged 16 months and two-and-a-half — after a “seamless” experience on the online site shortly after eligibility opened.

“We’re really excited for them to get vaccinated,” she said by phone. “We have a lot of optimism now.”

After waiting a few minutes in the online queue, Duchaine said she was set up with appointments at a clinic five kilometres from her home. Her family is planning to celebrate immediately after the children are vaccinated.

“Our plan is to pick them up from daycare, drive over and then celebrate at McDonald’s,” she said.

Robyn Sharpe managed to log on at 7:30 a.m. when she saw social media posts indicating the booking portal had opened a bit early.

She has scheduled a vaccine appointment for her 16-month-old daughter for next week, though the closest available clinic was in Toronto, about a 30-minute drive from her home in Brampton, Ont.

Sharpe said she had mixed emotions about the milestone because she’s concerned that the vaccines are no longer targeting the dominant strain of COVID-19.

“It just kind of feels like the only thing we can do, so we’re going to go ahead and do it, but I wish I was much more excited,” she said by phone.

Families can also make appointments through health units using their own booking systems as well as some primary care providers and pharmacies.

Vaccinations for babies and toddlers were expected to start later on Thursday, with some public health units and pharmacies set to run clinics and host appointments.

The immunization effort for the youngest age group is expected to ramp up across the province in the coming days.

Health Canada approved Moderna’s pediatric shot this month and Ontario’s health minister says the vaccine is safe, effective and will help protect children from the virus.

Immunocompromised youth aged 12 to 17 are also able to schedule second booster doses starting Thursday if six months have passed since their first booster dose.