Hamilton offers few details on how newly eligible residents can get COVID shots

·3 min read

The city offered few details on how more Hamiltonians can get their COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, while residents described frustrations accessing appointments.

From Friday at 8 a.m., individuals who are age 50 and older in the L8W and L9C postal codes will be able to book their vaccines through the online booking system, public health said.

All adults in those postal codes will be eligible later on, the province confirmed Wednesday, though a date was not provided.

On April 7, Premier Doug Ford announced that mobile teams and pop-up clinics will deliver vaccines to individuals age 18 or older in “high-risk” congregate settings, residential buildings, places of worship, and large workplaces in hot spot neighbourhoods, starting in Toronto and Peel.

“It’s very important to note that at this time, 18-plus only applies to Toronto and Peel,” spokesperson James Berry said in an email. “City of Hamilton does not have any further details at this time.”

All special education staff can register for vaccines beginning next week. But there was no information on exactly how and when.

“As the Province announced this yesterday, Hamilton’s vaccine task force is in the planning phase and awaiting further direction from the Ontario government,” said Berry. “We will continue to provide updates as they are available.”

Hamilton public health also had no information on how people with the “highest-risk” health conditions — who became eligible on Tuesday — can get their shots.

“Hamilton’s vaccine task force is actively working on this process and waiting to learn from the province what the booking options will be,” Berry said, including if eligible people can book online. “We will continue to provide updates as they are available.”

In Toronto and Peel, appointments are already offered to individuals with “highest-risk” and “high risk” health conditions.

On Wednesday, Hamilton administered 2,972 doses through its various clinics. Meanwhile, some residents complained about challenges getting appointments.

Ken Wilson, 66, said he signed up for a shot at Shoppers Drug Mart, and several days later, received an email offering an appointment.

“I click on the booking link, and it takes me to the Google home page. That was it,” Wilson said, saying he tried several times that day with the same result. It was a “no-reply” email, and didn’t indicate which location had the opening, so Wilson didn’t know who to call, either.

When he spoke to a local pharmacy offering the vaccine, he was told to register again. Instead, on Thursday, he got an appointment using the province’s online system.

Karen Smith, 60, said she put her name on wait lists for pharmacies in Hamilton and Toronto, where she works. She also put her name on a list to receive a text message if there were cancellations at Toronto clinics.

Smith, who works in developmental services, also signed up through the city’s health-care worker portal.

“I was getting more and more anxious,” she said. When Hamilton opened appointments to those age 60 and older this week, she got an appointment.

Smith said the experience was “so frustrating” in light of appointments recently going unfilled at Hamilton Health Sciences and FirstOntario Centre. “It’s a messed up system.”

“Ford’s on TV every day, ‘Get your vaccine,’” she said. “I’m trying.”

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator