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B.C. COVID vaccine booking system overwhelmed, ineligible groups reminded not to call

Last Updated Mar 8, 2021 at 8:11 pm PDT

Summary

Many British Columbians met with busy dial tones, automated messages as COVID vaccine booking system opened Monday

Fraser Health only health authority to offer online registration so far

People are reminded to not call until it's their turn to book a vaccine appointment

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An influx of calls to B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine booking line has meant delays for a number of people trying to get through Monday morning.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says about 1.7 million phone calls were received before 10 a.m. after lines opened at 7 a.m. on Monday, despite only around 80,000 people being eligible for the first round of B.C.’s broader vaccination efforts.

“There are about 47,000 people 90 and above in B.C. and they’re the eligible group, and there’s another 35,000 Indigenous people over the age of 65, so those are the two eligible groups,” said Dix, noting a significant number of people within these age groups have already gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I very much appreciate the enthusiasm of everybody calling in, but I would ask that people allow those who are eligible this week to book appointments to have priority,” he added. “If you’re not calling on behalf of someone over 90 — we’d like one person, per person over 90 and above to call in — or if you’re not an Indigenous person 65 and above, this is not the time to call in.”

He says thousands of appointments are being booked and that everyone who is eligible will get a spot.

Marnie Jarvis is among those who tried to get in the phone queue early. She says she went into work early to try to get someone on the phone for an appointment for a loved one.

“She’s not one of the ones in a nursing home. She’s 99 years old and I live with her, and she’s doing pretty good, but she’s only going out just for a walk in the lane,” Jarvis told NEWS 1130. “It would be really great for her to get the vaccine so she could maybe go out a little bit more.”

Many people, including Jarvis, were met with an automated message telling them the system was receiving a high number of calls and to call back.

Bryan tells NEWS 1130 he made dozens of attempts in 45 minutes to try to register his 91-year-old mother-in-law, but also ran into issues.

“She’s excited. She wants to get the vaccine done, but I’m thankful that it’s not her trying to make 200 phone calls to try and get an appointment because I’m sure it’s very frustrating for anybody,” he said.

People who live in the Fraser Health Authority have the option to book online, as well as by phone. Residents in all other health authorities are limited to bookings by phone at this time.

While many have reported issues getting through, a number of others say they were able to book an appointment relatively easily. People trying to register for a vaccine in more rural areas, such as those in the Interior Health or Island Health regions, don’t appear to be dealing with any or as many issues.

Monday was the first day to register Indigenous people age 65 and up, as well as other British Columbians age 90 and up, for appointments starting Mar. 15.

The process opens up to more British Columbians each week, by five-year age increments.

People are reminded to not call until it’s their turn to book a vaccine appointment.

Fraser Health says even if someone does manage to register out of turn, they will be turned away at the clinics.