Booster Eligibility Expands Across Ontario for People Aged 18 and Older

Appointments for COVID-19 booster shots were snapped up quickly as Ontario expanded eligibility for the shots on Monday, leaving many residents frustrated at being unable to secure a third dose or having to book one weeks into the new year.

Bookings via the provincial portal opened to residents between the ages of 18 and 49 — about 10.5 million people — provided it had been at least three months since their second shot. Premier Doug Ford has touted the sped-up booster rollout as central to the fight against the highly contagious Omicron variant, which is driving a surge in cases.

The government said more than 125,000 third-dose appointments were booked through its online portal as of 10 a.m., but many residents said they had trouble finding shots in their regions in the coming days. Some health units said they quickly ran out of appointments and others said they were focusing on shots for more vulnerable groups.

Health officials in Ottawa said Monday that all available spots had been reserved roughly 15 minutes after the expanded eligibility officially took effect.

“We apologize for the inconvenience & are working hard to add more capacity and availability,” Ottawa Public Health tweeted.

Demand also appeared to outstrip capacity in the Niagara Region, where the public health unit said Sunday night that all booster appointments for Monday and Tuesday had already been snapped up.

Similarly, the Southwestern Public Health Unit said that as of 11:15 a.m., there were no vaccinations appointments available until Jan. 17, with efforts underway to increase capacity.

Meanwhile, York Region in the Toronto area said it was prioritizing first and second doses for children aged five to 11 and high-risk residents, with no walk-ins for third doses. It also said booster doses would be more available for people aged 18 to 49 once public health was “able to meet the age 50+ population demand as they are most vulnerable.”

In Simcoe-Muskoka, the health unit said walk-in clinics would be reserved for people getting first and second shots and high-risk groups eligible for boosters, including people 50 and older.

Some regions using their own booking systems also reported technical issues due to high demand. The health unit covering Guelph, Ont., advised of online booking challenges, and tweeted that its phone helpline was experiencing high call volumes. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said late Monday morning that its website was down “due to extremely high traffic.”

Long line-ups were also reported at some pop-up vaccination sites Monday.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said public health units were “actively working to add appointments to the booking system” as the province ramps up vaccination capacity, aiming for between 200,000 and 300,000 doses per day.

Ontario reported 3,784 new COVID-19 cases on Monday.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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