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Mad scramble for 2nd doses of vaccine leaves Markham residents 'furiously angry' over York Region's roll out

Current vaccine demand in region is outmatching supply, with 27,000 people vying for 18,600 appointments on region's site
June 21, 2021
Heidi Reidner

A large number of Markham residents are "furiously angry" over York Region’s rollout of COVID vaccine second doses.

Donna Martin points to the "sheer incompetence" of a booking system that announced to residents on the evening of June 13 that anyone who received a first dose before May 9 could book their second dose appointment as of 8 a.m. the following Monday morning, but as of 8 a.m., there were no appointments available at any of the local vaccine clinics.

"I set my alarm to get up early and was in the queue at 7:50 a.m. When I was allowed entry at 8 a.m., there were no appointments available at any of the clinics," said Martin, who had hoped to book the Cornell site where she received her first does.

"Every time I input my postal code, the closest clinics that were offered to me were out in the west end of Toronto, downtown at the Convention Center, or in towns north of me like Barrie, Bradford and Innisfil."

Martin persisted in her attempts for four days in the hopes something would open up, but to no avail.

"Call centre workers admitted that I could be turned away if I make an appointment in an area that I don’t live in -- even though their website is telling me to make my appointment there," she said. "Seriously? This is the brilliant system that’s been set up to protect us in York Region?"

Martin questions why the information was posted on the website in the first place.

"Why did Premier Doug Ford announce that hot spot York Region is now administering second dose vaccinations when those of us who are eligible are actually being told that there are no appointments available and they don’t know when there will be any?" she asked.

"I wasted all of my time this week trying to book an appointment that was never there."

Martin took her complaints to the region’s director of corporate communications, Patrick Casey.
In an email response, Casey said current vaccine demand in the region is outmatching supply. At 8 a.m. June 14, more than 27,000 users were on the site waiting as the appointments were released. By 8:40 a.m., all 18,600 appointments were booked, with status updates posted shortly thereafter, Casey said.

Appointments were also already available through partner-led clinics at SoccerCity, Ray Twinney Recreation Complex and Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, he added.

Since Martin entered the booking system via a postal code, Casey suggested she may have been trying to book through the provincial portal or had been redirected to the portal after selecting the Cornell clinic versus accessing the clinic directly through the region’s home page.

"Our site would not redirect to clinics in other jurisdictions such as Barrie or Bradford," he said.

The Cornell site, however, uses the provincial booking system and it was fully booked prior to Monday’s launch.

"We traditionally keep that clinic marked as 'limited', as some appointments do get released due to no-shows and cancellations and the province often releases new appointments that we don’t have a line of sight to," Casey said.

In response, Martin said the Cornell link is misleading, with people wasting their time assuming there are limited appointments available.

"The bottom line is, the information is muddy at best," she said.

"Even the operators who answered phones at the phone numbers provided in each clinic box on the site were unclear," she added. "I called them at several different times, and each one told me a different story."

Martin insists the region’s system is ridiculously flawed.

"Not only is it wasting people’s time, it’s playing games with our health and our lives."

The region encourages residents to check the page often, or when they can throughout the week, as some smaller batches of appointments may become available.

It said it will be announcing new appointments shortly for next week.

As of June 18, 75 per cent of York Region residents ages 12 and older have received their first dose and nearly 24 per cent ages 12 and older have received both doses.