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'Continue to be patient,' York Region tells residents unable to book 2nd dose appointments

Regional supply is expected to ramp up from about 60,000 doses per week to 90,000 doses soon, medical officer of health says
June 21, 2021
Joseph Quigley

Newmarket resident Bryan Grimes was eager to book a second-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointment for his mother when eligibility was further accelerated this week.

Anyone in York Region who received their first dose on or before May 9 is eligible now to book a second dose appointment. Yet he wasn't able to book one, despite his best efforts and regular check-ins. Appointments were filled within an hour of opening June 14, York Region announced later that day.

More than 27,000 users were waiting to book on Monday morning when the municipality released the limited 18,000 appointments.

Feeling frustrated and annoyed, Grimes said York Region needs to more transparent in informing the public when appointments are actually filled.

Some users spent fruitless hours on the site or on hold throughout the day.

Booking on the region's website is too complicated, Grimes added.

He's not the only resident expressing frustration with the booking system, with many residents taking to local Facebook group pages to outline their difficulties booking an appointment.

Like him, others have expressed confusion with the colour-coded system used to indicate appointment availability, saying it's not updating in real-time.

In response, regional spokespeople continue to tell residents to "check back often" as more appointments are released.

“It is clear most of our residents want to get vaccinated,” York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson said at Thursday council meeting. “However, we can only administer the vaccines we have, and more appointments will open up as vaccine supply is delivered.”

“The federal government maintains every Canadian citizen who wants a vaccine will be fully vaccinated by September," Emmerson said.

Medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji said the region is currently vaccinating about 15,000 people a day, the vast majority of which are second doses.

 He said regional supply is expected to ramp up from about 60,000 doses per week to 90,000 doses.

“The demand for vaccines is much greater than our ability to administer them quickly,” Kurji said.

He added the region is exploring new models to improve efficiency, as well as adding additional vaccination sites.

The province announced June 17 that it would further expand vaccine eligibility, with York residents who received their first dose on or before May 30 able to book a second dose starting June 23. All Ontario adults can book a second dose starting the week of June 28.

Grimes said he understands York Region is working hard, and there are challenges with other jurisdictions, too. After the difficulties he experienced with the York Region website, he chose to book with a local pharmacy instead.

He added it is difficult seeing news about vaccines being available and eligibility expanding, only to be unable to get an appointment.

“The region could be more on top of this miasma of information that people are getting,” Grimes said.

In the meantime, when asked for comment, director of corporate communications Patrick Casey said given the record-high volume for web activity and telephone support, wait times may be longer than usual and service disruptions may occur.

"First and foremost, we ask our residents to continue to be patient," Casey said.