Calls for COVID-19 shots overload Hamilton's public health phone lines Monday

Hamilton public health says the number of callers trying to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments Monday overwhelmed its hotline and wait list, causing it to automatically hang up on people.

Public health says it tried to implement local online booking, but couldn't find the perfect system

Hamilton's medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, right, says more vaccines are coming to the city, and anyone who can book an appointment through the online provincial portal should do so. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton public health says the number of callers trying to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments Monday overwhelmed its hotline and wait list, causing it to automatically hang up on people.

"Public health units were never designed to handle huge hotline and call centre volumes," Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton's emergency operations centre, said during a media briefing.

"That's frustrating and I know people would like to see us with a system that would take every call or at least put you in a queue and have you wait. The reality is with the time we had to get ready, there was no way to create a system that would be perfect."

Public health has been encouraging people to book appointments and is trying to get as many people immunized as possible, but now its own system is frustrating callers.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, said public health has tried to adopt its own online booking system, but couldn't find the right one.

"We decided to stick with this system and it does have its shortcomings, but it has been the best solution we've been able to come up with," she said.

On Monday morning, all adults in city hot spots were eligible to book an appointment. While people living in areas with postal codes that start with L9C and L8W can use the provincial booking portal, those who live in L8L, L8N or L9K can only call 905-974-9848, option 7.

More options for booking coming

On Thursday, more people will be eligible to book their shots: those turning 50 and over this year, with high-risk health conditions and who cannot work from home (including elementary and high school workers).

Richardson encouraged anyone who can book online through the province to do so. Richardson said the city has vaccinated 196,880 people and there's lots of capacity for vaccinations.

Hamiltonians are trying to book appointments to get shots against COVID-19, but the number of calls are overloading the phone system and wait list. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The keys to getting needles in arms quicker, she said, are how quickly the province sends doses and appointments are booked.

"We had some good news from the province as well as the federal government that there were increasing numbers overall of vaccines that were going to be coming through," said Richardson.

"The province is hoping everyone in the groups who are spoken to in Phase 2 will be able to get a shot in the month of June. Whether it will be able to get to absolutely everybody including all of those who are 18 plus is still a question."

She said the city will focus on getting people their second dose over the coming weeks.

Public health imposing Sec. 22 order

As of Tuesday, workplaces with outbreaks will need to be in closer contact with Hamilton public health.

The city is imposing the Health Promotion and Protection Act's Sec. 22 Class Order as of 12:01 a.m.

It requires workplaces to contact public health directly if it has two or more COVID-19 cases within 14 days. They have to call again when there are five or more infections.

Public health will also be able to close a workplace for at least 10 business days, but a number of settings are exempt.

152 new cases on Monday

Public health recorded 152 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, but Richardson said there are data reporting issues that may affect the reported number of daily cases for the next week.

Three out of four cases in the past week are a variant of concern, she said. There are 1,664 active cases in the city, according to the city website.

The weekly average of new cases is at 154 and 12.2 per cent of all COVID-19 tests are coming back positive. That means more than one in 10 tests has a positive result.

But the city's reproductive rate is at 0.86, which means the overall case count is falling.

Richardson said while local COVID-19 cases may be stabilizing, it's too early to tell if we're beyond the peak and far too soon to start easing restrictions.

There are 152 people hospitalized with the virus. Public health says 360 people who had COVID-19 have died during the pandemic.

The virus has led to 17,681 confirmed infections, but 86.7 per cent of all cases are marked as resolved.

Outbreaks at fire station, construction firm

The city declared two new outbreaks on Monday.

There are two staff cases at Station 12 of the Hamilton Fire Department and four staff cases at State Group Inc.

The State Group Inc. outbreak also screened positive for a variant of concern.

There are 38 active outbreaks in the city.


Brant country reported 176 active cases, according to data online. There were 18 new cases over the last 24 hours.

There have been 2,759 cases since March 2020 and 17 deaths. Nineteen people were in hospitalize with COVID-19.

A total of 2,566 cases have been marked as resolved. 

There have been 53,034 doses of the vaccine administered. Of this number, 4,546 have completed the vaccination series.


Haldimand and Norfolk counties reported a total of 293 active cases of COVID-19.

There have been 2,321 cases throughout the pandemic. Of those 1,996 have recovered.

The local public health unit has linked the virus to 41 deaths.

There have been 39,657 doses of the vaccine administered, with 3,955 of them having completed the vaccination series.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Halton rose by 132 over the past 24 hours, for a total of 15,463.

There were 873 active cases, according to data.

Twenty-nine of the new cases reported were in Burlington, which has seen 3,850 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Currently, there are 263 active cases.

A total of 213 people across the region have died after testing positive for the virus, 53 of them in Burlington.

The region has seen a total of 3,841 variant cases.

A total of 206,858 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Halton. 


Niagara reported 96 new cases of COVID-19. The region has seen 14,132 cases over the course of the pandemic, including 3,281 that are active.

A total of 395 deaths have been linked to the virus during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 10,456 cases have been marked as resolved.

Public health has administered 186,022 vaccine doses and Niagara Health has administered 85,341.

Six Nations

Six Nations of the Grand River said a person died due to COVID-19 complications.

Ten other people have died during the pandemic.

The region hasn't updated its COVID-19 data since Friday.

The community reported 29 active cases. There have been 499 total cases and 457 resolved. 

One person was hospitalized with COVID-19 and 11 deaths have been linked to the virus. 

A total of 1,152 people have received their first vaccination and 1,509 people have received both doses.


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