Island couple says booking a COVID-19 vaccination should be more efficient

·2 min read

An Island couple says they'd like to see a more efficient way of making appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Last week people 80 years and older could begin calling a phone line to book a time to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But, several seniors were unable to book or waited for hours because the lines were so busy.

Cathy Schaap, 66, said she called the phone line to make an appointment for her husband Thomy Nilsson, 80, last Friday and Saturday and spent a couple hours waiting on the phone.

"I was about to hang up because we had to leave and low and behold, I actually got through," Schaap said.

She said once she was connected with a health official booking the appointment was easy, but the process it took to get to that point could be made easier.

"I thought it wasn't a very good use of time and I was wondering whether, possibly the Health PEI people could phone us instead of having us sort of spend all this time on the phone," Schaap said.

She said the province could also explore options like creating more phone lines or creating a system where people call to book appointments according to their birthday or surname.

Evan Mitsui/CBC News
Evan Mitsui/CBC News

Nilsson said the province also has access to Islanders' addresses and could possibly send a letter with an appointment time for a vaccination.

There are about 5,500 Islanders aged 80 and over and Nilsson said he's also concerned that as more groups get their turn to be vaccinated, wait times could get longer.

"What are you going to do when you're trying to reach the entire population? It seems like they'd be waiting indefinitely," Nilsson said.

Last week, Marion Dowling, the province's chief of nursing, said there were technical issues with the lines when they were first made available to people trying to book a COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday.

In an emailed statement to CBC News Monday, the province said the phone lines operated smoothly over the weekend and as of the end of day Sunday appointments were scheduled for more than 2,500 people aged 80 and up who are eligible to get the vaccine. The province also said there are now 10 phone lines available for callers and when people call they are placed in a queue for the next available line. The statement said people may be on hold for up to 30 minutes.

The province said these phone lines were not staffed Monday because of the winter storm and officials expect to have all the lines running again Tuesday.

The province didn't respond to a question about whether it is looking at other ways of booking the appointments.

The first shots are expected to be given out on Feb. 22. The number for Islanders 80 and older to call to book an appointment is 1-844-975-3303.

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