Booking COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario 'ridiculously hard,' despite what Doug Ford and Christine Elliott say

Farah Khan
·7 min read

As Ontario expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to more people across the province and in hot spot regions, the confusion with the booking system continues.

People from Toronto and Peel — where the bulk of the province's cases are being reported — including Ontarians of all ages are finding it difficult to book an appointment despite their purported tech-savviness. So much so that a Twitter account called Vaccine Hunters Canada quickly amassed close to 200,000 followers. 

The Ontario government defended the provincial booking system for vaccines by saying it is simple to use. 

During question period, Health Minister Christine Elliott said "there is very little confusion out there, with respect to how to book a vaccine appointment," as reported by Jack Hauen.

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Two weeks ago, Doug Ford also said it is an easy to use system to book a vaccine.

"For the folks that find it confusing, I have to tell you...we're well over 6 million people that didn't find it confusing," Ford claimed during a presser, referring to doses administered. as well as the millions of appointments that had been booked, repeating that it's "very, very simple." 

But Ontarians say otherwise.

Ontarians compare booking vaccine to winning lottery, golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory 

Peel Region has the second highest number of cases in Ontario, yet residents living in hotspots are still struggling to get booked for a dose. 

Peel resident Nakib Khan had to try his luck at different clinics and centres — 89 times — over more than three hours to get his. 

"I feel like I won a ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory," he tweeted. 

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With multiple online booking systems in Ontario, there is confusion about which one to use, whether your postal code is eligible, where the location is, and whom it's for — a task more arduous than the provincial government claims. 

"Ontario's vaccine rollout is a hodgepodge of different systems that we have to muddle through to figure out how we can get a jab," Ishat Reza tweeted. 

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For residents of Ontario who are technologically challenged or whose first language is not English, the process to book brings about many more complications. 

Considering the hotspot communities are some of the most diverse regions in Ontario, residents are not only at a high risk of transmission, but many have language barriers and limited access to technology, and face other inequalities.

"The 'requirements' to book a vaccine appointment are further amplifying inequalities," Carla Velastegui tweeted. 

"It took me multiple tries on a broken online form, two calls to my local health agency, and one hour on-hold to book an appointment for my dad — a front-line worker with limited tech and English fluency."

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By relying on internet and phone access, people who don't know how to use either are being left out of the process. 

For those who are eligible, being on social media or refreshing an appointment page at all times of the day is impossible or unreasonable, especially if for those who do not work from home who are most at risk. 

Others still are simply relying on their family doctors to inform them when they can get the vaccine. 

"Eligible patients with no cell phones, no families, limited English proficiency, or without OHIP literally can't access vaccines despite being eligible," tweeted Mais Nuaaman, an internal medicine resident.

"I asked one the other day and they said, "I was waiting for my family doctor to call me and book me". Heartbreaking."

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But, even for those who are tech savvy, the process is still not as simple as the government claims. 

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The roll out process has started to pick up since many Ontarians began relying on a Twitter account called Vaccine Hunters Canada to find available doses nearby. Still, long lineups and hours of waiting at pop-up clinics across the province prevail. 

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People are questioning how they should follow the stay-at-home order rule whilst wandering for a vaccine at a popup clinic.

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Yet, people find the Vaccine Hunters Canada account to be more organized and informative than the provincial government.

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