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Ontario launches online vaccination booking system

Monday, March 15, 2021 @ 12:55 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario’s much anticipated online booking system for COVID-19 vaccinations went live March 15, opening first to those aged 80 and older.

Individuals born in 1941 or earlier or those trusted to make an appointment on their behalf may visit, according to a March 14 government news release. Those who do not have Internet access are instructed to telephone the provincial vaccine information line at 1-888-999-6488 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday to Sunday.

Those using the online booking system are guided to make an appointment through the provincial system or through their local public health unit, if it has a booking system or call centre set up. In the booking process, individuals are asked to provide information from their green Ontario health card, their birth date, postal code and e-mail address and/or phone number. Eligible individuals are directed to schedule their first and second vaccination appointments. Expired cards are accepted, but those without a green health card are being directed to their local public health unit for identity validation and to provide contact information.

In news reports, some users initially using the system reported long wait times and error messages. On Twitter, the system was commended by some users. “The Ontario vaccine booking system gets an A+ from me,” said A. Bienek, who identifies herself as an epidemiologist working with Canadian data on adverse events related to drugs and medical devices. “There is a wait,” she added, “but it’s a functional wait with no freezes or crashing.”

Starting in April, access to the online booking system and call centre will be extended to additional age-based groups that are part of phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine rollout. The number of vaccination sites across the province is expected to reach 255 in March, including 153 mass immunization clinics, according to the news release.

“We are making steady progress in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan, and the launching of the online booking system is another major milestone,” Premier Doug Ford said in the news release.

Vaccinations in primary care settings and community locations, such as physicians’ offices, began in Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Peterborough, Simcoe-Muskoka and Peel on March 13. Primary care providers are not taking appointments, but are contacting eligible Ontarians aged 60 to 64 directly to book an appointment. They are only offering the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine at this time.

Ontario reported 1,268 new COVID-19 cases on March 15 and nine more deaths from the virus. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases increased to 1,349, up from 1,155 at the same time the previous week, while the test-positivity rate rose to its highest level in three weeks. Of the news cases, 366 were in Toronto, 220 in Peel Region and 147 in York Region. Information from Critical Care Services Ontario indicated that 349 people are currently in intensive care units being treated for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, called on the Ford government to include people with disabilities in phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine rollout.

“The Ford government should have placed people with disabilities on their priority list for vaccinations from the start,” he said in an NDP news release. “Their failure to do so is putting lives at risk, and their lack of investment in a plan to remove any and all obstacles for people with disabilities trying to access their vaccination is a serious problem.”

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