Online COVID-19 vaccine booking to open in B.C. as case numbers soar

·2 min read

VANCOUVER — Online COVID-19 vaccine booking is set to launch in British Columbia on Tuesday as the province enters the next phase of its immunization rollout.

The news comes as case numbers spike in B.C., with a record-high daily total on Saturday of 1,072 new infections and an outbreak on the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

On Monday, the City of Vancouver suspended the business licences of two restaurants that allegedly broke public health orders prohibiting indoor service.

In a written statement, Mayor Kennedy Stewart accused the restaurant owners of "openly" defying public health orders.

"The harassment and bullying of public health officials experienced during the execution of their duties is completely unacceptable," he alleged.

The licences of Corduroy and Gusto restaurants are suspended until April 20.

No one from the restaurants could immediately be reached for comment on the mayor's statement and the licence suspensions.

The online registration system for vaccinations was supposed to open April 12, but Premier John Horgan said in a news release that the earlier launch marks a "major milestone" in B.C.'s fight against COVID-19.

When the Get Vaccinated system opens, people born in 1950 or earlier, Indigenous people who are 18 and older, and those who have certain medical conditions will be eligible to register.

A telephone option is also available and people can register in person at their nearest Service BC location.

"We encourage everyone in B.C. to get their vaccine at their first opportunity, when it is their turn," Health Minister Adrian Dix said in the statement.

People aged 55 to 65 on the Lower Mainland are still eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at a participating pharmacy. The province said it will announce details about expanding the program to other regions in the days ahead.

The province faced criticism last month for not having an online registration system ready when the second phase of its age-based vaccination program began after call centres in each health authority were initially overwhelmed. Fraser Health was the only authority that had an online booking platform at the time.

Dr. Penny Ballem, who's leading of the immunization program, said B.C. has worked "diligently and tirelessly" to get the provincewide online registration and single phone-number systems ready.

"We're ready to move onto the next phase of the largest vaccination program in B.C. history," she said.

To date, the province says nearly 770,000 eligible B.C. residents, or one in six, have received their first dose of a vaccine, and more than 87,000 have received their second dose.

If B.C.'s vaccine supply is delivered as scheduled, the province says everyone who is eligible will receive their first dose of a vaccine by the end of June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press