Corp Comm Connects

Markham among hot spots targeted for vaccines, but 'messed up' system creates chaos

‘We have over 50 people that urgently need our help and we cannot get this done,' Pink Cars founder says
April 8, 2021

Markham neighbourhoods were among the hot-spot areas targeted for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in response to surging case counts of the virus.

Residents ages 45 to 59 with the L3S postal code in Markham were able to register for the vaccine with York Region Public Health April 7, for April 8 appointments.

The Phase 2 rollout began in York Region with those born from 1962 to 1976 living in five postal codes -- four in Vaughan and one in Markham. There were about 8,000 appointments to be scheduled for April 8 to 12.

"I have been advocating for this approach to prioritize vaccinations in hot spots,” Mayor Frank Scarpitti said, adding he is also urging public health to include teachers at schools in the targeted neighbourhoods in the vaccine rollout.

Shanta Sundarason, who co-founded the volunteer-driven Pink Cars group helping seniors book and get to appointments, said the region "really messed up the system for booking" after it changed the process April 7.

Pink Cars -- which to date has helped more than 2,000 seniors and many more people with language barriers -- used to be able to book for people in need under its York Region account by adding each person as a 'family member'.

That changed April 7.

"Every person wanting an appointment had to either call a number and wait for two hours, only to be told that the appointments are full, or to go online," Sundarason said, adding people were out of luck if they couldn’t decipher the system.

"We have over 50 people that urgently need our help and we cannot get this done," she added.

That’s because Pink Cars can now only book for others by creating an account for them, but if they don't have an email address, then it’s a no go.

"Email addresses cannot be used more than once, so this is just ridiculous," she said.

The region cited privacy issues for the change, but Sundarason doesn’t buy it.

"Pink Cars booking a person in need under our account does not breech any privacy issues and all they are doing is making it more difficult for people to book," she said.

That’s on top of the "mass confusion" created with both the region and the province announcing hot spot postal codes eligible for the vaccine, she added.

In addition to the four areas in Vaughan and one in Markham under the region’s program, the province announced residents age 50 and older in eight more postal codes across southern York Region, including Markham, can also book their vaccines in coming weeks.

That’s part of the provincial government’s targeting of priority groups in Phase 2 that focuses on communities in geographical locations with high historic and ongoing rates of transmission, hospitalization and death.

"So, the region sends out hot spot postal code information with no spots left for booking after 15 minutes and then the mayor sends out different hot spot postal codes that cannot be booked and sends residents into a frenzy," Sundarason said.

Additional appointments also opened at clinics across York Region on Apr. 7 for all other eligible priority groups, including residents age 65 and older, health-care workers, Indigenous adults, faith leaders and adult recipients of chronic home care.