COVID-19: Officials promise plan for Ottawa residents without 2nd vaccine dose booked

Some Ottawa residents, largely in the 80-plus demographic, are left hanging without second COVID-19 vaccine appointments booked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ottawa health officials are moving to reassure residents who have received an initial shot of the COVID-19 vaccine but have no second dose booked that plans are coming to make sure everyone gets a follow-up appointment.

Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Board of Health, acknowledged in a press conference Wednesday that “there’s been some frustration” for residents who feel like they’re falling through the cracks without a second dose appointment booked.

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Many of these worried residents are people in their 80s who were among the first in the general population to receive a dose of the vaccine locally.

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Anyone who scheduled their first dose through the city’s temporary booking system — before the province’s centralized platform went online on March 15 — was not given a date for a follow-up injection.

Similarly, anyone who booked in the provincial system before the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations to expand the interval between doses to 16 weeks had their second appointment automatically cancelled and has yet to be rebooked.

Read more: Vaccine uptick a chance to get Canada’s most vulnerable a 2nd dose — and sooner

Ontario’s system does not currently allow residents to only book appointments for second doses, but a tool to do so should be ready soon, Egli said.

“Second doses will not be missed. Details on how and when to book those second dose appointments will be communicated shortly,” he said.

The confusion extends to residents who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose and have yet to be told what their second dose will be.

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Egli said that Ottawa officials met with Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod on Wednesday morning to talk about the issues they’re facing in the local vaccine rollout. He said local reps felt “heard and listened to,” adding that the province is expected to make announcements to address these concerns “in the coming days.”

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Ottawa officials also expressed some frustration with the province’s decision to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults aged 18 and older on Tuesday without proper warning. Ontario had been set to open eligibility to anyone aged 30 and up this week.

Ottawa ran out of appointment slots just a few hours after the 18-plus crowd were able to book their shots.

“That did create a challenge, for sure,” Egli said, but he reiterated that despite the “bumps in the road,” the relationship between the province and local officials remains positive.

Read more: All COVID-19 vaccine slots booked at Ottawa clinics amid surge from 18+ crowd

Anthony Di Monte, head of Ottawa’s vaccine distribution task force, reassured residents that the city will add more appointments as supplies are confirmed and that there will be plenty of heads up before slots are opened — there’s no need to check the provincial system every hour in hopes of snagging a shot.

Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches acknowledged that some people who have been unable to book a vaccination might be feeling “anxiety” seeing others their age get their vaccines.

But she and other officials on the call reiterated that anyone in Ottawa who wants to get a vaccine will be able to, and each shot in an arm brings the city closer to its goal of “community immunity.”

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“Every person who’s getting vaccinated helps to protect not only themselves, but everyone around them,” Etches said.

As of Wednesday, 451,802 Ottawa residents have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, representing 53 per cent of eligible adults in the city.

Nearly 33,000 people in the city, or four per cent of adults, are now considered fully vaccinated.

There are 172,000 vaccine appointments booked at Ottawa community clinics between now and the end of June, Di Monte said Wednesday.

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