Thousands of millennials and Generation Z'ers who were hoping for their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are instead cooling their heels after all available appointments in Ottawa were booked within hours Tuesday.
Anyone 18 or over became eligible to reserve an appointment through the provincial booking system at 8 a.m. Tuesday, but by 10:30 all available slots in Ottawa had been claimed. The situation was the same across much of eastern Ontario.
It was very frustrating. - Shams Abed
Alex Boone logged on at 10 a.m. only to receive an error message. He tried again, but had no luck booking an appointment at his preferred location.
"I went through the first place, which was city hall, and went through May, June, July, August, and I went all the way to 2023 with nothing available," Boone said.
"So I moved on to the next six available locations to where there was no actual availability whatsoever."
City asking for more doses
Until now, the process has been more gradual. The previous week, for example, anyone 40 and over became eligible, and the week before, it was anyone 50 and over.
Tuesday's release was the first time such a large group became eligible at once. Boone felt that was unfair.
"People just keep going in circles and circles to try and book a vaccine, especially if they're not so tech savvy to check ... social media and to see that there isn't anything available."
Shams Abed went online first thing Tuesday morning, but was also unable to book an appointment.
"It was very frustrating. I mean, we've been waiting for the vaccine for a very long time," Abed said. "I just couldn't believe it that in one day [it] just completely ... got booked."
Coun. Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Board of Health, said Tuesday 40,000 appointments were available when the portal opened that morning.
The city said it has asked the province for more doses. If and when that happens, vaccination capacity can quickly be boosted at the current clinics, and the city could also consider opening new clinics or drive-thru locations, said Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services, during a news conference Wednesday.
"If we get additional vaccine, more appointments will be added to the system, and we'll let you know," Di Monte said.
Wait's not over
Many of those lucky enough to get an appointment discovered their wait is far from over.
"I guess I was pretty naive. I thought I would get an appointment for like next week or the week after that, and that's not what happened," said Nemee Bedar, who was able to book for June 22, with her second appointment in October.
Bedar said she's still on a waiting list at a pharmacy, and if that chance comes up first she'll cancel the other appointment.
"It feels a little bit like a game, you know, which is weird to say about a health appointment."
The vaccine rollout is set to expand even further in the coming weeks, with youth ages 12 to 17 eligible to book vaccines as of May 31, Di Monte said Wednesday.
Dedicated clinics for young people and their families are slated the weeks of June 14 and 21, Di Monte said.
"We want to assure you that everyone who wants a vaccine will be provided the opportunity to get one," he said. "We will get through this summer, and we'll get it done."