Ontario health units urge patience amid vax demand surge as all adults now eligible

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TORONTO — Ontario health units are asking for patience and warning of limited COVID-19 vaccine appointments after all adults in the province became eligible for shots today.

A spokeswoman for the premier's office says more than 183,000 vaccine appointments were booked within the first two hours of expanded eligibility.

People aged 18 and older became eligible for shots starting at 8 a.m.

Health units across the province warned that appointments might not be available right away amid skyrocketing demand.

The City of Ottawa announced that community clinics were fully booked as of 11 a.m., saying more appointments would become available when the city receives more supply.

In Hamilton, the city acknowledged residents' frustration while trying to book shots, saying there may be "limited or no appointments" at some of the city's mass clinics.

Lambton Public Health in southwestern Ontario asked for patience in a social media post and urged people to check back again for new appointments.

"While we’ve opened vaccine eligibility, there may be a delay in getting your vaccine appointment," the health unit said Tuesday. "Additional clinics will open as more vaccine is confirmed, so check back daily."

Lambton County also announced on Tuesday that the largest vaccination clinic in the region, an arena in Point Edward, Ont., would start taking vaccine appointments for youth aged 12 and older, or those turning 12 this year.

"We want to encourage families with children 12 years of age and older to book their vaccination appointments together," Dr. Sudit Ranade, the region's top doctor, said in a statement. "So, we are opening our mass immunization clinic at the Point Edward Arena to all eligible groups to receive Pfizer, which is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in 12-15-year-olds by Health Canada."

Mayors of the largest cities in the Hamilton and Toronto areas had called for greater vaccine supply on Monday in order to keep up with the expected surge in demand. That came after the province shifted back to allocating vaccines on a per capita basis following two weeks of sending half its supply to hot spots.

The provincial government said Monday that it had enough vaccine supply to ensure hot spots would be able to keep up with demand.

Appointments for COVID-19 vaccines can be booked through the provincial online portal, call centre or local health units' booking systems. Pharmacies and pop-up clinics are also offering shots.

The expanded eligibility comes as the province reports 1,616 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 more deaths linked to the virus. The data is based on over 22,900 completed tests.

The Ministry of Health says 1,484 people are in hospital with the virus, including 764 are in intensive care and 559 on ventilators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press