Ontario launches vaccine booking system for those aged 80 and up

TORONTO – Ontario’s hotly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine booking system launched Monday for those aged 80 and up, with thousands logging on within minutes.

The online booking system went live at 8 a.m., and the site showed more than 8,000 people in the queue for an appointment a few minutes later, with an estimated wait time of about an hour.

But the lineup appeared to grow quickly, with some who went on the site shortly afterwards reporting a longer estimated wait time.

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.

Qualifying residents can visit the online portal or call a hotline to book their appointment.

But Premier Doug Ford is urging those who don’t yet qualify for a shot to keep off the website so that it doesn’t crash.

Some of Ontario’s 34 public health units have already established their own systems for booking vaccination appointments, but the provincial portal will either enhance or 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 says people who are eligible to get vaccinated can book online at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine, while those wishing to schedule by phone can call 1-888-999-6488.

But even as the vaccination drive ramps up, some regions of the province are still dealing with a troubling number of COVID-19 cases.

Sarnia-Lambton is moving into the grey-lockdown stage of the province’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Lambton Public Health says the lockdown is a “declaration of emergency” after weekly case numbers rose sharply among residents under age 50.

The province also said it will move the Northwestern Health unit into the second-strictest “red” category of the pandemic response plan.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, meanwhile, will move from the least restrictive “green” classification into the “yellow” category.