'My age group lost out': Regina residents 44+ frustrated over lack of vaccines

·3 min read
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said the demand for COVID-19 vaccine appointments outweighs the current available supply. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said the demand for COVID-19 vaccine appointments outweighs the current available supply. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Jill Wenzel, 45, is a Regina resident who woke up Thursday morning feeling hopeful.

She is now eligible to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, as the province opened up appointments to anyone aged 44 and over on Thursday.

But when she logged online at 8:00 a.m. CST — when the province's booking system opened up — the City of Regina was not listed.

"I thought by 8:01 I would have an appointment in Regina and everything would be wonderful," Wenzel said. "Well, there were appointments available in other communities but Regina wasn't even an option."

Some people have booked appointments outside of Regina in order to get the shot.
Some people have booked appointments outside of Regina in order to get the shot. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan's capital city, which is the province's hotspot for COVID-19 fuelled by variants of concern, did finally show up. But there were no appointments available.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said the demand for appointments outweighs the current available supply.

The health authority added that additional appointments are expected to open up in Regina and Saskatoon but could no say when. More clinics will be added too as more vaccines arrive.

The city's drive-thru clinic also remains closed. Wenzel is not eligible for a vaccine there because the SHA cut off the age at 46.

"It's a very frustrating experience. I went to bed last night hopeful…I would have my appointment and feel a little better about it all, but it was anything but," Wenzel said. "My age group lost out."

Vaccine clinics accepting patients outside of Regina

Wenzel ended up booking a vaccine appointment at a clinic in Weyburn, something others are contemplating.

"Regina residents are being asked not to leave the city, but I can tell you, as a 44 year old, some of the smaller communities around Regina with open appointments in the next few days are looking pretty tempting right now. I doubt I'm the only one," Twitter user Greg Bamford said Thursday.

With a travel advisory in place for the Regina area, Wenzel doesn't think driving to Weyburn for a vaccine makes the most sense. Plus she would have to take time off work to drive over an hour.

"The crappy part is I can't go back and look for appointment times [in Regina] because I already have one booked," Wenzel said.

She said she doesn't know if she should cancel her appointment and try her luck again Wednesday, or if she should keep her appointment in Weyburn.

Regina's mass drive-thru clinic located at Evraz Place remains closed due to a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines. The drive-thru had cut off eligible age groups at 46.
Regina's mass drive-thru clinic located at Evraz Place remains closed due to a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines. The drive-thru had cut off eligible age groups at 46. (Submitted by Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Calls to improve user experience

"I'm concerned with it all because it's not working," Wenzel said, who is calling for better communication and a better booking system.

"They need to monitor their system. I think sometimes they think the systems are foolproof. But you're not doing any of your beta testing with the average person, so it's a very frustrating experience."

Aaron Genest, a manager with Siemens Digital Industries in Saskatoon, agreed the province needs a better system.

"Public-facing health systems are some of the most critical pieces of software we build as a province. It's vital that usability be front and centre when considering how they will be deployed," Genest said in a statement.

"It's frustrating that our online vaccine booking system has the challenges that it does and I hope that [the SHA] is working actively to improve the user experience as an increasing proportion of Saskatchewan becomes eligible for vaccination."