‘High volume’ of Ottawa residents trying to book COVID-19 vaccines, but slots are out there: city

The City of Ottawa says there are 'limited' COVID-19 vaccine appointments available despite glitches on Monday affecting the provincial booking system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Despite a “high volume” of people trying to access Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine system in Ottawa, the city is encouraging residents to continue trying to find an appointment amid changes in availability and eligibility this week.

Monday morning marked an expansion of who could book an appointment for a second COVID-19 dose, now including those aged 70 and older or those who received a shot of an mRNA-based vaccine the week of April 18.

But the wave of newly eligible bookers coincided with technical issues in the provincial booking system, with some reporting the phone line and website were down at various points in the day.

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Anthony Di Monte, the head of Ottawa’s vaccine distribution task force, and Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health, said in a joint memo to council Monday afternoon that “overwhelming demand” had “temporarily overloaded” the provincial system that morning.

Despite the glitches, 27,000 bookings were made locally in the system Monday morning, the memo read, as many sought “accelerated appointments” for their second doses.

The City of Ottawa also put out a release Monday afternoon suggesting anyone who had difficulty booking earlier in the day try again.

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“There is a limited number of appointments available in Ottawa, but there are some,” the city said.

The release noted that new appointments could open up as others successfully reschedule their shots or cancel bookings after getting a vaccine somewhere else.

To that end, the city also encouraged anyone rebuffed from the provincial system to look into getting a shot at a pharmacy or via their primary care provider.

The city is still in the process of contacting a cohort of 17,000 residents aged 80 and older who were booked for their first doses via OPH before the provincial system went live. This group has been left largely without second dose appointments, but Di Monte and Etches said in their memo that those who have been contacted have, for the most part, been making their own arrangements for a follow-up shot within the recommended 16-week interval.

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There are roughly 7,000 people left in this group to contact, the memo said.

As of Sunday night, 68 per cent of Ottawa adults have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In total, nearly 600,000 residents have gotten one dose with roughly 70,000 now protected with two doses, according to Ottawa Public Health.

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