AHS CEO apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine online booking snafus

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The head of Alberta Health Services has apologized for technical issues during the launch of its online and telephone COVID-19 vaccine booking system. Bookings opened Wednesday to Albertans born in 1946 or earlier. (AHS - image credit)
The head of Alberta Health Services has apologized for technical issues during the launch of its online and telephone COVID-19 vaccine booking system. Bookings opened Wednesday to Albertans born in 1946 or earlier. (AHS - image credit)

The head of Alberta Health Services has apologized for the "frustration and worry" caused by problems during the launch of its online COVID-19 vaccine appointment booking system.

AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu released a statement Friday, saying she wants to acknowledge the anger felt by seniors and their families who ran into technical difficulties when the provincial booking system became overwhelmed after opening to those 75 and older on Wednesday.

The site repeatedly crashed and the 811 phone line jammed as Albertans tried for hours to book appointments.

"I want to publicly and personally apologize to anyone who experienced frustration, anger, or worry over what should be a hopeful time in the pandemic response," she said.

Yiu said that AHS made "an error in judgement" when it stress-tested the booking system, and underestimated how many people would use the online tool and call 811 to try and book an appointment at launch time.

"We had planned for tens of thousands at a time, and demand far exceeded that, leading to technical issues that took several hours to resolve. The technical issues have been fixed, a queuing waiting room is in place, and the system is stable," Yiu said.

She acknowledged that the snafus have shaken public confidence in AHS's ability to deliver vaccines.

Yiu said that in just two days, more than 120,000 of the 230,000 eligible Albertans born in 1946 or earlier have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said more than 12,000 seniors aged 75 and over have already received their first dose of the vaccine.

Seniors who are residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities had already received the vaccine.

In her statement, Yiu also addressed reports of line-ups at immunization clinics, as seniors have queued to get theirs shots.

"Everyone who has an appointment is being vaccinated, and we have put in place better line management and process at the sites to encourage people to wait in their vehicles until their time slot," she said.

"Some of the clinics are behind schedule because we are taking time with each person, and we may need to extend the 10-minute allotment for each immunization. We are looking at that, and learning how to be efficient, caring, and respectful of all Albertans."