More than 160,000 register in first hours of B.C.'s new COVID-19 vaccination system

Registration for the province’s age-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics went off without a hitch Tuesday, with more than 160,000 people registering in the first six hours.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said 160,464 people had registered by 2 p.m. and 23,827 appointments for vaccinations had been booked.

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Saanich's Jacquelin Green, 54, registered at 7 a.m., an hour before the online booking system officially opened, and had an appointment as a clinically vulnerable person by 8:15 a.m. She was given the choice of three places at which to receive her vaccine. "Everything worked smoothly and easily."

Victoria’s Doug Boyd, 71, said it took just minutes to register online. Within 20 minutes, he had received a link to book his vaccination. “I scheduled it for April 17, the first date that was available at the Conference Centre,” he said.

Yves Vanier, 60, of Sooke, said the online system worked “great,” but noted that the confirmation letter and number went “straight to the junk mail folder.” People are advised to check their spam folders in case confirmation messages end up there.

Nanaimo’s Fiona Anderson, 69, said she registered online “without effort.” Her husband, 74, registered by phone last week and was booked for a vaccination on April 25. However, her 70-year-old sister booked online today and received an appointment for April 16.

“This is baffling,” Anderson said. “How is it that my sister was able to register later and receive a vaccination appointment earlier than my older husband? I hope this is an anomaly.”

To rectify the matter, Anderson booked an new online appointment for her husband for April 18, and cancelled the old one by phone. “The phone process was quite painless.”

Only non-Indigenous people 71 and older, Indigenous people 18 and older, and clinically vulnerable people who have received letters are eligible to register right now, but social media sites were filled with posts from younger people who had easily registered.

Esquimalt’s Andy Witt, 65, said he just wanted to get his online registration done this morning, and so he did. “It took less than two minutes.”

The province’s two-step vaccination booking process requires people to first register with the system. They are contacted when they are eligible to book an appointment.

Vaccinations are being booked by age, so people will not be able to jump the queue to get their shot. However, the province is still asking people to register only when eligible.

This is to avoid crashing the online site and jamming the call centres, as happened when the health authorities launched their call centres.

In that case, there weren’t enough call agents to staff the phone lines, amongst other problems, and Dix blamed Telus for not delivering the service they were contracted to provide. The problems were fixed within the week.

On Tuesday, the health minister applauded Telus “for their continued support and efforts to keep these systems up and running.”

The new system kicks off the next phase of the largest vaccination program in B.C. history. There are 4.3 million people 18 and older eligible for vaccination and 19.2 per cent have got their first dose, said Dix.

The website to register for vaccinations is gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated. The phone line is 1-833-838-2323. You will be asked to give your name, birthdate, health number, and postal code, and will be contacted when you are eligible to book an appointment.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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