Individuals 80 years of age and older will get first dibs and be able to schedule appointments online or by phone using Ontario’s provincial COVID-19 vaccine booking system beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, Mar. 15.
The portal will be accepting appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics.
“We are making steady progress in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan, and the launching of the online booking system is another major milestone,” Premier Doug Ford told a media briefing on Sunday. “In this phase of our plan we are still offering vaccines to our most vulnerable, so I encourage everyone aged 80 and older to use the portal to book an appointment. For everyone else, please be patient, as we get more supply, the vaccine will be offered to more people.”
Beginning Monday, individuals who will be turning 80 or older in 2021 (born in 1941 or earlier) and wish to make an appointment – or – a trusted individual to make an appointment on their behalf – can visit Ontario.ca/bookvaccine. Once on the page, the person will be guided to make an appointment through the provincial booking system, or their local public health unit if there is a local public health unit booking system or call centre in place. When booking an appointment, individuals will be asked for information from their green Ontario health card, birth date, postal code and email address and/or phone number. At the time of booking, eligible individuals will schedule their first and second vaccination appointments. Individuals who still have a red and white health card, or who require assistance with booking, can call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488 beginning on Monday, March 15.
“The provincial booking system will be critical in supporting the next phase of Ontario’s vaccine rollout as more vaccines become available,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We know everyone is eager to receive the vaccine, and as we continue to build capacity, we are making it easier and more convenient for individuals to book and receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.”
At the moment, vaccination appointments are only available for individuals turning 80 or older in 2021 as part of Phase One of Ontario’s vaccine distribution plan. Starting in April, the online booking tool and call centre will extend to additional age-based groups that are part of Phase Two.
The province is urging people who are not eligible for a shot to avoid accessing the booking system or calling the service desk to allow those who are eligible the opportunity to book an appointment.
Retired General Rick Hiller, head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, is confident the online portal will be able to handle the volume, though he acknowledged officials will be quick to deal with any “hiccups” that arise.
“We are confident in the system itself but we all know in many places there are some hiccups and sometimes the systems go down for a while,” Hillier said.
“If it does go down for a while, we’ll fix it and get it back up but while it is down, there will not be a single empty chair in a vaccination clinic.”
Hillier said there will be 2,000 operators on the call centre Monday with the capacity to answer 10,000 calls per hour, which he claimed is two to three times what Quebec and California managed to do. He added the online booking system will be able to take more than 800,000 appointments.
The government said Phase One of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is nearly completed, and the province is preparing to move into Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next month, with a focus on vaccinating populations based on age and risk.
“The introduction of these booking systems puts in place the final piece in the province’s infrastructure to roll out its vaccination program,” said Retired General Rick Hillier. “There is now a fulsome range of options for the people of Ontario to book an appointment and receive their vaccine, but please only use them if and when it is your turn.”
- For individuals turning 80 or older in 2021 who do not have internet access, please call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line at 1-888-999-6488, open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.