Corp Comm Connects

York Region transitioning vaccine bookings to provincial system

Move would not impact second dose appointments as they are kept separate, says York Region’s MOH
May 14, 2021
Jessica Owen

Confusion over vaccination booking and second dose appointments spilled over into York Region council’s committee of the whole meeting today.

During the meeting, medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji provided councillors with an update on the region’s COVID-19 response, including informing councillors that the York Region booking system will now be transitioned to the provincial booking system, despite only last week calling such a switch “a huge negative.”

“Given the move shortly to expand 18+ eligibility for vaccine appointments, this makes the transition to the provincial system a very viable option for booking,” Melissa Pinto, corporate communications advisor with York Region told NewmarketToday on Thursday.

“We are in the process of planning this transition for our mass immunization clinics in alignment with vaccine allocations and expect this transition to occur in the coming weeks,” said Pinto. “Until such transition occurs, eligible individuals will continue to book at”

York Region launched its own appointment booking system two weeks prior to the provincial system so it could begin vaccinating seniors outside of long-term care and retirement homes on March 1.

As of last week, York Region aligned its vaccine eligibility with the province’s rollout, which Dr. Kurji said at that time should correct confusion on eligibility.

While York Region initially intended to migrate its appointment bookings to the provincial COVAX system, the “many many challenges” reported by other public health units changed that decision, he explained last week.

At that time, Kurji said it would be “a huge negative” to transfer data from one system to the other, and that the York Region system would need to be maintained for the second dose appointments.

However, today Kurji said that York Region has now determined that switching to the provincial system is the best course of action.

Vaughan Regional Councillor Mario Ferri asked how residents waiting for word on their second shots will know if their appointments have been moved to the provincial system.

“If you’ve received the first shot through the York Region system and we’re now migrating to the provincial system, will they have to deal with the provincial people for the second shot? How does that work?” he asked.

Kurji responded that second doses are a priority and are kept separate from first doses.

“We set aside those particular doses. The province has the same approach,” said Kurji. “When it comes to the systems for booking, there are still some challenges with transitioning to the COVAX system. The key point there is we do not want to do anything that compromises the ability of the residents to receive the second doses at the time and date they were allocated.”

Ferri said he has received many calls from residents worried about their second appointments.

“At this point, it is all set. However, we have a group that is looking at the issue of second doses and how to make it easier for residents. That may include sending a reminder. That is still a work in progress,” said Kurji. “We are very cognizant of the anxieties and the necessity of good customer service.”

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor echoed Ferri’s concerns about second dose appointments, and messaging around second doses.

Kurji said he could not "commit 100 per cent" that all appointments will be kept at this point.

“I don’t think it’s a secret when it comes to the operation of the Ray Twinney Centre, that Southlake would like to transition to public health. We are currently in some discussions with respect to how that would happen,” said Kurji. “There are legal agreements that have to be entered into.”

“There are a few operational challenges like that that we have to work out before we can commit 100 per cent that there will be no disruptions,” he added.

Taylor asked when the region might have clarity on second doses, and when they will be arriving in the region.

“How will we resolve this?” asked Taylor.

Kurji said all second dose appointments are being respected. The majority are slated for July, and they will start increasing as of June.

“We have no intention of changing any of those second dose appointments,” said Kurji.