British Columbia

What B.C. seniors need to know about booking vaccine appointments

On Sunday, B.C.'s health authorities released further details on when seniors should call, in a bid to avoid call centres being overwhelmed. Here's what you need to know about booking your vaccine appointment.

Province has released age-based call-in system to ensure phone lines are not overwhelmed

Seniors during this phase of the vaccine rollout will receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.  (Francis Ferland/CBC)

This story was last updated on March 16, 2021.

British Columbia is now booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments for seniors not living in care homes. 

The vaccination campaign began on March 8 with people aged 90 and older and Indigenous people over 65 asked to phone their health authority to book appointments. Other age brackets followed suit.

Bob Chapman, one of Vancouver Coastal Health's leaders on the vaccine rollout, described March 8 as a milestone in the province's pandemic response.

"We're really excited about this phase of actually reaching out to some of our public to start calling in for their vaccines," Chapman said. "We feel there's been a lot of anticipation for this time, so we're really excited we're here."

Here's what you need to know about booking your vaccine appointment.

When should I call?

Seniors are being asked to phone during the following weeks, based on their age:

  • For the week of March 8: seniors born in 1931 or earlier (aged 90 and above) or Indigenous seniors born in 1956 or earlier (aged 65 and above).
  • Starting on Thursday, March 11: seniors born in 1937 or earlier (aged 84 and above). (Updated on March 10.)
  • For the week of March 22: seniors born in 1941 or earlier (aged 80 and above).

Once someone becomes eligible they are able to book at any time — meaning no one will miss their window for booking an appointment. 

The first appointments were available as of March 15. 

Are there any exceptions?

There are some exceptions for remote communities.

In Vancouver Coastal Health, seniors born in 1941 or earlier (80 years of age and older) who live on the Sunshine Coast, or in Powell River, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton were invited to call as of March 8.

In the Island Health region, approximately 30 smaller and remote communities that don't currently have immunization clinics will be vaccinated as a whole — meaning the whole community will receive the vaccine during a single visit by health authorities to the area.

The following island communities fall into that category: Bamfield, Cortes Island, Denman Island, Gabriola Island, Galiano Island, Gold River, Hornby Island, Kyuquot, Lasqueti Island, Mayne Island, North Pender Island, Penelakut, Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeil, Port Renfrew/Jordan River, Quadra Island, Read Island, Saturna Island, Sayward, Sointula, South Pender Island, Tahsis, Thetis Island, Tofino, Ucluelet and Zeballos.

In Northern Health, the phone booking system opened to seniors aged 80 and above in certain communities on March 10.

Those communities are Burns Lake, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Dease Lake, Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Fraser Lake, Hazelton, Houston, Hudson's Hope, Kitimat, Mackenzie, Masset-Haida Gwaii, McBride, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, Smithers, Stewart, Terrace, Tumbler Ridge, Valemount, Vanderhoof and the Village of Queen Charlotte.

In Fort Nelson, seniors 60 and above were able to register by March 10.

What information will I need to provide?

People phoning to book their appointment will be asked to provide their first and last name, date of birth, postal code and personal health number, which can be found on the back of a B.C. driver's licence, B.C. Services Card or CareCard.

If you do not have a personal health number, you can still receive the vaccine.

What will happen during the phone call?

If you're phoning for yourself, the phone agent will verify your age and ask for your personal information. You'll then select an appointment time slot at a clinic close to your home.

If you provide contact information, you'll receive a confirmation message by email or text.

If you're phoning on behalf of someone else, the phone agent will verify who you are calling for and ask you to provide their age and personal information before proceeding.

Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, told CBC that Island residents should also indicate during the call if they have no transportation available to make it to a vaccine clinic. He said while it is preferable for people to come to a clinic, in certain circumstances where that is not possible a nurse may be able to come to someone's home.

Which vaccine will I receive?

Seniors during this phase of the vaccine rollout will receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

How can I prepare for the appointment?

The province recommends arriving a few minutes early for your appointment and wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a mask.

All clinics are wheelchair accessible, and you are allowed to bring one person for support.

What will happen at the appointment?

At the appointment you'll be asked to complete a check-in process and then receive your vaccine dose. 

You'll then be asked wait in an observation area for about 15 minutes. The whole appointment will likely last 30 to 60 minutes.

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