Problems continue to plague COVID-19 vaccine portal on Wednesday

·3 min read

Confusion and frustrations were rampant as Hamilton residents continued to face problems booking COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, despite promises from the province that the snags would be resolved by morning.

Mountain resident Marylyn Male called it an “extremely frustrating” experience trying to get an appointment for her spouse since Monday.

When she opened the online booking system, she selected a time for the first dose at St. Joseph’s West 5th clinic, but none were available for the second one, so she couldn’t complete the booking. She also tried the province’s call centre but the operator faced the same problem.

Despite assurances from retired general Rick Hillier at a provincial briefing on Tuesday that the glitches would be resolved by the end of day, Male said there were still no times available for second doses at St. Joe’s when she tried on Wednesday morning.

When she checked again around 10 a.m., the West 5th clinic was no longer even listed. The only nearby clinic was the one at HHS, but Male said there were no appointment slots.

She said it was “absolutely outrageous” that Premier Doug Ford and Hillier weren’t even aware before the briefing of the problems from Monday.

However, she was “relieved” by the afternoon when her spouse got an appointment at the West 5th using the city’s hotline.

Elise de Stein, a 76-year-old resident who previously told The Spectator about her difficulties booking an appointment at the FirstOntario Centre, said the site still wasn’t listed in the portal on Wednesday.

But she was “a little relieved” that she could book an appointment at all, which she and her partner did at the Hamilton Health Science (HHS)’s clinic.

Asked about the absence of specific sites and second dose times on the portal, Hamilton public health said it “is expecting more appointments to be added by the province for next week by the end of this week.”

The city also ramped up its vaccinations, administering more than 3,500 doses on Tuesday from 1,900 the previous day. Based on the city’s reported figures, doses more than doubled at the HHS site specifically, which administered roughly 1,200 doses on Tuesday from a daily average just below 500 in the last seven days.

At a general issues committee meeting on Wednesday, the city announced that it’s planning to open the Rosedale Arena vaccination clinic in early April.

Meanwhile, confusion prevailed for some residents expecting to get their second shots when they were turned away from Harry Howell Arena in Flamborough on Wednesday.

“We’ve had a number of people that have been showing up all day,” Coun. Judi Partridge said during the meeting.

The pop-up clinic began vaccinating residents on March 3, before the province changed its guidelines on second doses.

Previously, individuals could receive second doses 21 to 27 days after their first. Effective March 10, that interval increased to 16 weeks following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Paul Johnson, who leads the city’s pandemic response, said Hamilton cannot administer second doses of the vaccine “faster than the province mandated.”

“It is confusing,” he said, noting roughly 6,500 people who’d received their first doses were initially on track for a shorter wait for their second ones before the province shifted gears.

Those who were turned away will have to book a second shot, he said.

Johnson added that staff have also turned people away who showed up to the FirstOntario Centre and St. Joseph’s sites expecting their first doses without an appointment.

—With files from Teviah Moro

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator