The province launched its much-awaited online vaccine booking portal and call centre on Monday with a warning to anyone outside of the priority group thinking of jumping the queue.
Individuals 80 years and older (born in 1941 or earlier) plus those in the Phase 1 priority group who are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time can visit ontario.ca/bookvaccine to make an appointment or by calling 1-888-999-6488.
The portal, which was set to go live on Monday at 8 a.m., will allow people to book their first and second vaccination appointments at the same time.
“If you’re going to be 80 this year, if you’re going to be 80 in September or October, November, please go online and book your appointment.” – Premier Doug Ford
Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is heading up the provincial vaccination effort, has already cautioned about delays and a potential crash of the website once it is up and running on Monday morning. That is why provincial officials are asking that anyone outside of the priority group stay off the website until it is their turn.
“For the online booking system, we have more than 800,000 appointments that are going to be available,” Hillier said. “We have stress tested the system over the last week’s here, including with Toronto Public Health, and since Friday we’ve booked more than 15,000 appointments using the online booking system. It was done without a flaw.”
“We are confident in the system itself but we all know that in many places, there are some hiccups and sometimes the systems go down for a while and if it does, we’ll fix it and get it back up,” he added.
Hillier adds the call centre will utilize more than 2,200 operators and the system is capable of handling approximately 10,000 calls an hour.
When compared to California, Quebec and other places who experienced call centre issues, “that is twice or three-times the capacity to handle calls,” said Hillier. “We’re prepared to ramp up even further if necessary.”
To book an appointment, individuals will need to have a green photo health (OHIP) card as both numbers on the front and back of the card are required. Expired cards will be accepted.
For those people who still have the red and white health card, they will have to make their appointment using the call centre.
Despite provincial data which shows just under 42,000 vaccines were administered on Saturday — down from the more than 53,500 done the previous day — Ford says the province is ready to get even more shots into the arms of Ontarians.
“We are ready,” said Ford. “We are ready to ramp up immediately to 150,000 vaccinations a day, we just need more vaccines. We have the capacity to do 4.8 million (vaccinations) in a month and we have 1.4 million coming in through March.”
City of Toronto officials say their online booking system will be offline as of 8 p.m. Sunday night in order to allow for a transition to the provincial system. It will be available to book appointments again starting at 8 a.m. Monday.
Starting Wednesday, the City will begin vaccinating residents born in 1941 and earlier at mass immunization clinics located in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto Congress Centre and Scarborough Town Centre.
Some family doctors in Ontario started administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 60 to 64 years old in the regions of Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Peterborough, Simcoe-Muskoka, and Peel Saturday. The Ontario Medical Association says there are a limited number of doses and they’re asking people not to call their doctors’ office, saying that physicians will contact eligible patients.
As well, select pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston are also offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents in the 60 to 64 age group.
“Across 160 Shoppers Drug Mart & Loblaw pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex, we have vaccinated more than 28,000 Ontarians to date. While some have run out, others expect to be through the limited supply in the coming days,” said the pharmacy chain in a statement.
To book an appointment, eligible Ontarians aged 60 to 64 can visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a participating pharmacy.
Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that priority groups in Phase 2 would also be able to book appointments starting Monday. Currently only those in Phase 1 groups are permitted to book appointments.