Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine booking system ready to launch for those eligible: Ford

·3 min read

Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine booking system is ready to start taking appointments both by phone and online, the province's premier announced Sunday amid warnings to limit its use only to those who currently qualify to be immunized.

Doug Ford said early tests of the provincial vaccine portal have been "seamless" in the run up to Monday morning's formal launch.

But he said it's crucial that only eligible residents make use of the system. For now, that group consists solely of those 80 and older, he added.

"This could not be more important," Ford said at a rare Sunday morning news conference. "... If you are not 80 or older, or helping somebody who is, please do not try to book an appointment. We need to take care of our elderly first."

While many of Ontario's 34 public health units have already established their own systems for booking vaccination appointments, the provincial portal will now either enhance or fully replace those setups in many areas.

In addition to allowing vaccine-seekers to book their shots, the portal will also provide instructions on how to schedule appointments based on their location within the province.

The government website and an accompanying phone line are both set to go live on Monday at 8 a.m.

The province said people who are eligible to get vaccinated can book online at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine, while those wishing to schedule by phone can call 1-888-999-6488.

First and second vaccination appointments will be arranged at the same time, the government said, noting people will be asked to provide their provincial health card details, birth date, postal code and email address or phone number.

Ford said the booking system will be open to other age groups in April as part of the next phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout.

The launch of the provincial portal marks the latest step in the province's mass immunization drive, which introduced new elements targeting some 60 to 64-year-olds in recent days.

A pilot project allowing pharmacies to administer shots launched last week in the Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington health units.

Family doctors in six other public health units — Toronto, Peel, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough and Simcoe-Muskoka — also began delivering vaccines to eligible patients as of Saturday.

Both pilot projects will see those in the target age bracket receiving shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Meanwhile Ontario reported 1,747 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, but Health Minister Christine Elliott said that number could be inflated by "several hundred" cases because of a data error.

Elliott told reporters she couldn't pinpoint exactly how many cases were related to a change in the way the provincial tracking system classifies cases.

The province said the virus has been linked to 15 additional deaths. Authorities say 601 people are being treated in hospital for COVID-19, including 282 patients in intensive-care units.

Elliott said more than 47,600 tests were completed since the last update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press