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COVID-19: Ottawa mayor Watson writes to Premier Ford asking for more vaccines

Ottawa's mayor is asking the province for an additional 40,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to accommodate local demand for accelerated second doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa’s mayor is calling for an injection of extra COVID-19 vaccine doses in the nation’s capital amid technical issues in the provincial booking system and rapid expansions in eligibility.

Jim Watson wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford Monday asking for a “strategic allocation” of 40,000 vaccine doses in Ottawa.

The request comes as “overwhelming demand” for accelerated second dose bookings in Ottawa left many residents shut out of the provincial system Monday morning. Ontario had just opened the system up to those aged 70 and older or those who received a shot the week of April 18 to rebook their follow-up vaccinations for an earlier date.

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Watson pointed the blame at the Ontario government for rapidly expanding eligibility for those who want to shorten their second dose intervals.

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He noted that the city was given “very limited details” before an earlier decision to open up rebookings to those aged 80 and older, which he said led to errors in the provincial system. New bookings were paused for multiple days in Ottawa while the issues were sorted.

“This had a frustrating and emotional toll on our seniors trying to book an appointment,” Watson wrote.

Read more: Ottawa adds 19 COVID-19 cases, 68% of adults vaccinated with 1 dose

Ottawa has so far received 604,790 doses of COVID-19 vaccine — not including allocations directly to pharmacies or primacy care providers — and has administered 96 per cent of that inventory, according to the local public health unit.

“The reality in Ottawa is that the remaining appointments available in June are insufficient to meaningfully accommodate those eligible, or soon to be eligible by your government, for an accelerated second dose.”

Watson said Ottawa has “low vaccine hesitancy” and added that the additional 40,000 doses could help to alleviate the demand locally.

“I would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you further on this matter at your earliest convenience,” he concluded.

Ottawa health officials sent a memo earlier Monday afternoon encouraging residents who were shut out earlier in the morning to keep trying to book an appointment, as availability can change rapidly.

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