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'Pathetic and shameful': York Region residents frustrated with vaccine booking system

People trying to book appointments for 1st, 2nd doses voice anger, fatigue with busy booking system in York Region
June 28, 2021

Friday, June 25, 2021
Frustrated with the vaccine rollout?

You’re not alone.

People trying to book appointments for first and second doses voiced anger and fatigue with the busy booking system in York Region June 25, as the region transitioned to a new booking platform.

At 8 a.m., York Region Public Health released 38,000 more appointments, including a new group of eligible individuals.

By 10 a.m., 21,000 appointments had been booked -- but it wasn’t without its glitches, gridlock and tribulation.

Many took to social media to express frustration with long wait times and inability to secure an appointment.

"I'd like to remain positive, but this vaccine 'plan' has been a joke -- from day one," Richmond Hill’s Adriana Pisano Beaumont said, after trying multiple times, unsuccessfully, to find an appointment for her 94-year-old father.

The fact York Region is not on the provincial booking system and people "gaming the system" by booking multiple appointments until they get one they like -- and not cancelling others -- has led to chaos, she said.

"I was online every morning, looking for openingsā€¦ I can’t help wondering how older, independent adults who have nobody to advocate for them are managing.”

Others, such as Carolyn Jones, contacted the region and local media.

Jones, of Markham, said booking the first dose was smooth sailing.

She rolled up her sleeve April 23, but said she has been trying for weeks for dose two, calling the York Region number and Cornell Centre on an almost-daily basis, waiting on hold, then being told the time slots had all been taken -- and none of it makes any sense to her.

"There are a staggering number of people in the group (first vaccines up to May 6) that haven’t been able to get their second vaccine appointment booked or moved up. What does the government do? Open it up to people who received their first vaccine by May 30. Now even more people are trying to get the limited number of appointments available.

"Whatever happened to the idea that seniors should be prioritized?

"This is a pathetic and shameful display of irresponsibility. Those who have put all this in place deserve to lose their jobs."

The region’s new booking platform allows users to reschedule a second dose appointment rather than booking a new appointment, said regional spokesperson Patrick Casey. Unlike the old system, users don't need to log in to the new booking system or to create a username or password in advance.

Residents who are trying to access the system and have not yet booked an appointment experience a "waiting room" to hold their place in line while other users are in the system.

Karen Antonio-Hadcock, director, integrated business services, said the region approached the transition to a new system with caution, knowing there’s always a surge with big appointment releases like the one June 25.

Initially, the system limited user capacity to 1,000 concurrent users, but when that produced significant wait times, it was increased to 4,000.

This helped diminish wait times later in the morning, she said.

Complicating things, many people tried to log in with multiple devices at the same time.

With 38,000 time slots available and 400,000 people eligible, "we expected there’d be a bit of a scramble for people to try and access so we appreciate that it can be frustrating," she said.

At the same time, the new system worked well enough to book about 2,000 appointments every 10 minutes and by noon, they were all booked, she said.

The region is discussing with the booking vendor ways to increase user capacity ahead of future appointment releases, she said.

The decision to align with the province’s rollout and open up appointments to new groups is part of a "delicate balance", Antonio-Hadcock said.

While some are frustrated with the increased wait times when more groups become eligible, others are frustrated when the region’s system is out of step with the province.

"We do know that these are anxious times," she said.

"We are trying to meet our residents’ expectation as much as possible and just continue to ask people to be patient and kind. There will be enough for everybody. It’s just a matter of time."