VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Phone operators booking British Columbians COVID-19 vaccine appointments are hearing the wholesome moments and sighs of relief when making an appointment.
This week, when NEWS 1130’s legislative reporter Liza Yuzda booked her mom’s vaccine, she asked the operator if he’s getting any happy callers. She says he told her sometimes he’ll stay on the call until the person hangs-up just so he can hear the families or couples cheering.
Yuzda tweeted her experience, which has reached thousands of Twitter users. Some have commented, sharing their experience and feelings once they booked their own or family members’ appointments.
Just booked my mom's vaccination appt.
Asked operator if he's getting a lot of happy people calling.
He says he sometimes will wait a second to hang up so he can hear the families or couple cheering because they have an appointment.#bcpoli #covid19
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) March 16, 2021
Yuzda says the tweet has “obviously touched a nerve.”
Sean, the TELUS phone operator who helped Yuzda, says calls as short as seven minutes give him and his colleagues unique insight into a historic time in many people’s lives.
“I’ve heard [things like] they want to take back the streets and start dancing and playing their music,” he explains.
And Sean says he’s even been invited for a pot of coffee.
More recently, Sean says he informed a vaccine recipient of the cancellation protocol and information for modifying the appointment.
“And the guy … said ‘You know what, if I’m in the hospital on a stretcher … I’m making them wheel me over to the COVID vaccine site. I am not missing my appointment,'” Sean says. “So you get a lot of excitement like that.”
However, what’s especially heartwarming is the last moment before someone hangs up the call, Sean says.
“You can hear them just cheering and celebrat[ing] that we get to see our grandkids again or we get to see our children again. And I think that’s kind of the biggest one that you hear most often is the joy of actually having an end in sight, which hasn’t been there for a long time.”
Here are a few feel-good responses NEWS 1130’s Liza Yuzda received:
I am months away from my vaccine, but happy vaccine news makes me teary-eyed. Overjoyed for those who will be protected or have loved ones who’ll be protected. Amazing.
— KET #BLM (@tobinke) March 16, 2021
I saw a handful of people silently crying yesterday and people leaving the site skipping with excitement. It was really cool. I don’t think I’ll forget it https://t.co/DOdOJWuBsX
— Main Street North (@mainstreetnorth) March 16, 2021
It’s been one year. The disbelief, the fear, the grief, the anger.
And now, hope. https://t.co/AvJ4YTtTxb
— Bryn Robinson (@brynphd) March 16, 2021
This is so pure finding out my Grandma has an appointment tomorrow was the best part of my day!!
— Kaila Butler (@kaila_butler) March 16, 2021
I was in tears trying to book my moms. One of the happiest days of my life and the best birthday gift I could have asked for. Friday cannot come soon enough.
— Indi (@CdnGamerChix) March 16, 2021
my neighbours just told me their parents are booked for Saturday and now they feel like they can breathe for the first time in a year.
— Kimanda (@KimandaJ) March 16, 2021
In the first-week vaccine appointments were able to be made, many callers expressed frustration in the booking process — especially in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the work failures rested with TELUS, adding the company promised it was ready to go on day one.
“They did not meet their contractual obligation,” he said.
But Dix emphasized that the ultimate responsibility is his.
The company issued a statement, saying it is “incredibly sorry,” adding “we can and will do better.”
Additional staff was added to ensure people eligible we able to “get the services they deserve,” Dix said.
Sean says he was motivated by other volunteers who were getting up at 5 a.m. to take training classes to help support call volumes.
“So I set my alarm, woke up at five the next day and I’ve been doing this for about two weeks now.”
Sean adds it’s been nice to connect with people and see the best of them.
The next phase for age-based booking of vaccine appointments starts Saturday, with people 79 and older and Indigenous peoples over 55 eligible to book an appointment. Eligible workers are being reminded not to call their local health authority for appointments; employers will arrange those vaccines.
– With files from Denise Wong