Ottawa COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people 12 and older booked until January

Ottawa Public Health says COVID-19 vaccine appointments are fully booked until January, hours after residents 50 and older became eligible to book third doses.

“All COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the 12+ population are currently booked until January 2,” the health unit tweeted Monday morning. “We are working to open more appointments and will update you as we know more.”

That news came after many Ottawa residents said they experienced problems when logging on to the provincial booking system to book booster shots. Ontario officials said a technical issue is to blame.

The provincial vaccine booking platform opened at 8 a.m. for residents 50 and older who received their second dose at least six months ago. That’s about 3.4 million people provincewide.

But many social media users in Ottawa and across the province reported a number of problems and said they were unable to book appointments.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office said in a statement Monday the provincial booking system was experiencing a technical issue due to high demand.

“While thousands of Ontarians have already booked their appointments this morning through the provincial booking system, the provincial portal is currently experiencing an intermittent technical issue and we are working to resolve it as soon as possible,” the statement from a spokesperson said.

“We ask individuals to be patient and keep trying.”

Ottawa Public Health noted booster appointments will still be available at pharmacies.

Many Ottawa residents expressed frustration with their unsuccessful attempts to book online on Monday.

“Booking a booster in Ottawa: Wait half an hour on the provincial site and it doesn’t work, then wait an hour and a half on the phone just to be told no more appointments are available,” one Twitter user wrote. Many others reported similar problems.

Some people, though, reported successfully booking a third dose after several attempts or waiting more than 30 minutes.

The expanded eligibility for people 50 and older comes as Ontario’s panel of expert advisers on COVID-19 said that the Omicron variant — first detected in the province in late November — now accounts for 21 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases.

“I strongly recommend that residents book an appointment or drop-in to a pharmacy for a third dose as soon as they become eligible,” medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said in a statement last week.

“This along with continuing to follow public health measures will help reduce the burden on our health care system in the weeks and months ahead.”

You can book an appointment through the Ontario government’s COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 and through select pharmacies and primary care settings. 

The following individuals are also currently eligible for booster doses

  • Health care workers
  • Staff and designated essential caregivers in congregate settings (such as long-term care and retirement homes)
  • Individuals who received a complete series of a viral vector vaccine (two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen/Johnson and Johnson vaccine)
  • First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults (16 and over) and their non-Indigenous household members.

The expanded eligibility for a third dose comes as COVID-19 cases rise in Ontario and the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern spreads.

Ottawa Public Health said this weekend there is evidence of community transmission of the Omicron variant in a variety of settings. Officials suspect an outbreak that closed École élémentaire catholique Saint-Jean-Paul II in Stittsville is linked to the Omicron variant.

“Testing indicates that it is likely to be the Omicron variant of concern,” said the health unit in a letter to parents on Saturday.

“As a result, the entire school (staff and students) have been deemed to be a high-risk contact and must isolate immediately, regardless of vaccination status.”

As of Jan. 4, all Ontarians aged 18 and older will be eligible to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Friday, 88 per cent of Ottawa residents aged five and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 82 per cent had received two doses.

– WIth files from the Canadian Press

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