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City of Hamilton warning residents of scam offering COVID-19 vaccines for money

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco

The City of Hamilton is alerting residents about an alleged scam that offers front-of-line COVID-19 vaccine service for a fee.

Officials say they’ve received reports of phone calls targeting seniors selling vaccination appointments via credit card or other form of electronic payment.

“This is a scam – vaccines are free in Hamilton,” the city warned in social media post on Wednesday afternoon.

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Read more: City apologizes for hotline outages during update on Hamilton’s vaccine rollout

Personal finance educator Kelly Keane told Global News that vaccine scams are beginning to emerge across country with similar models requesting money for vaccines.

Alberta Health Services warned its residents on Wednesday after hearing numerous episodes where someone over 75 was offered a COVID-19 immunization for a fee.

“It’s so important that you call your parents, you call the elders in your life and let them know that, no, that is not going on in any province. You are not having to pay for your vaccine,” said Keane.

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Hamilton police spokesperson Jackie Penman says the service has not been involved in any investigations tied to vaccine phone scams as of Thursday.

“We have not received any reports but would encourage anyone who believes they were scammed to report to police,” said Penman.

Hamilton police’s fraud and scams unit can be reached at 905-546-4925 or online.

Residents can also reach out to the city to report a scam at (905) 974-9848.

Read more: AHS warns Albertans over 75 of scam offering vaccine appointments for money

Hamilton rolled out its campaign to vaccinate seniors aged 85 and older, earlier this week.

The city’s emergency operations centre (EOC) director says thousands of bookings have now been logged into computers as of Wednesday.

“I know it may take a few tries. I know it’s frustrating, but persevere because thousands of people are getting signed up for those vaccines,” Paul Johnson told Global News.

The hotline struggled to get off the ground on the weekend due to high call volumes from those looking to book a shot for some 11,000 over the age of 85 that qualify for one of the two vaccines available.

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On Wednesday, the city said that St. Joseph’s Hospital had began contacting patients over 85 who received care at either one of their facilities or at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) in the current calendar year to get a running start on booking people into the clinics.

Just over 38,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Hamilton, with over 26,000 at the HHS fixed clinic, 500 at the St. Joe’s fixed clinic and more than 11,000 through the mobile clinic.

About 16,000 doses have been given to health-care workers, with about 6,000 tied to a staffer at an LTCH or retirement home. Just over 7,000 shots have been given to residents in homes and 1,500 to essential caregivers.

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