TORONTO — Ontario health units asked for patience and persistence on Monday as all adults in the province became eligible to speed up their second COVID-19 vaccine dose appointments.
Everyone 18 and older who had a first dose of an mRNA vaccine could book an appointment to get their second shot ahead of schedule as of 8 a.m.
Recipients of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA shots can get a second shot of either as soon as 28 days after their first jab. People who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca must wait at least eight weeks before getting a second jab of any of the three vaccines on offer.
Those eligible could book through the provincial online portal or phone line, through pharmacies or local booking systems.
Nearly 185,000 vaccine appointments had been scheduled through the provincial booking system by noon on Monday, said a spokeswoman for the provincial health minister. That number does not account for appointments booked through pharmacies and local channels.
Health officials asked people to try multiple channels amid the surge in demand.
“Be persistent with the online portals as new appointments are added regularly,” the health unit covering Leeds, Grenville and Lanark said on Twitter. “Phone lines are busy but the portal has openings. Try local pharmacies too!”
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Halton Region asked people to try the online portal first before flooding the busy phone line.
“Rescheduling online is the easiest way to book an earlier appointment,” the health unit said on social media. “Please be patient and we ask that residents avoid calling 311 unless they need immediate support, such as no internet access or email.”
People living in designated hot spots for the more infectious Delta virus variant became eligible to move up their appointments, which were initially booked four months apart, earlier this month.
The expansion of accelerated second doses comes just two days before Ontario is due to enter Stage 2 of its reopening.
That phase of the reopening plan will allow indoor gatherings of up to five people and see hair salons resume operation for the first time in months.
Ontario reported 210 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and three deaths from the virus.
The numbers are based on 13,071 tests.
The province says 180,369 vaccine doses have been administered since the last update, for a total of more than 14.2 million.
Provincial data says over 77 per cent of people have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and more than 35 per cent are fully vaccinated.