Alberta Health Services opened appointment bookings for all residents born 1946 or earlier Wednesday. Within minutes of online applications opening, however, reports of jammed phone lines and website crashes quickly circulated on social media.
According to both Calgary and Edmonton police, frustrated Albertans are even trying to call 911 to book a vaccine appointment.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Edmonton police urged residents not to call the emergency line, which is for, well, emergencies.
“The Edmonton Police Services Communications branch has received close to 100 calls from citizens this morning attempting to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments,” police said. “We would like to remind Edmontonians to only dial 811 for vaccine bookings and NOT 911.”
As our partners at Alberta Health Services (https://t.co/Mhk3lqxrsf) work to coordinate COVID-19 vaccines, we would like to remind Edmontonians to only dial 811 for vaccine bookings, and NOT 911.
911 should only be used for emergency situations involving Police, Fire and EMS. pic.twitter.com/GUs7nyVudZ
— Edmonton Police (@edmontonpolice) February 24, 2021
Calgary police reported a similar influx of vaccine inquiries into their emergency line.
As our partners at @AHS_media (Alberta Health Services) work to coordinate COVID-19 vaccines, we would like to remind Calgarians to exercise caution and only dial 811 for bookings, NOT 911. Thank you. #yyc
— Calgary Police (@CalgaryPolice) February 24, 2021
An additional 230,000 Albertans living in the community are now eligible to book their vaccine appointment for the coming months as of Wednesday.
The initial rollout was riddled with problems as residents rushed to book their appointments as soon as bookings opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Many took to social media to document their frustrations.
— Claire O'Gorman (@cmogorman) February 24, 2021
The UCP: you can start booking vaccines online for seniors over the age of 75 at 8 am on Wednesday
Albertans: we will all be on your website right at 8 am
The Alberta Health Services webpage at 8:01 am: pic.twitter.com/Bt5azmWUES
— Britt (@brrittannyh) February 24, 2021
Alberta Health Service's vaccine online booking has already crashed. And it's 8:05.
— Valerie Fortney (@ValFortney) February 24, 2021
— Ioana Bratu (@IoanaBratu7) February 24, 2021
By 12 p.m. MST Wednesday, over 12,000 Albertans had booked their appointments while thousands still continued to get through. During a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw had a warning for Albertans.
“I anticipate that people will need to be patient and keep trying to get into the system whether it’s by phone or by internet,” Hinshaw said. “We’ve done as much as we can to try to prepare. There will always be some challenges as we roll out an immunization program of this size.”
Both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services continued to preach patience on social media Wednesday as complaints rolled in. According to Alberta Health Services, there should be enough supply to vaccinate the entire age group by April, barring any unforeseen vaccine shortages.
Alberta Health Services is also urging Albertans not to call hospitals or doctors directly to book appointments.
Please do not call hospitals or clinics directly as they are not able to book appointments.
— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) February 24, 2021
Eligible Albertans can book online or by call 811 — again, NOT 911.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.