Yukon's COVID-19 vaccination booking site struggling to handle demand
Online booking for general population in Whitehorse opened Thursday, and promptly crashed
It didn't take long — the Yukon government announced upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinics for the general public in Whitehorse on Thursday morning, and within an hour or two, the online booking system crashed.
More than a day later, the system was still seemingly swamped and only select priority groups could make appointments.
"We're really pleased with the high uptake, but unfortunately, the uptake is what's caused part of the problem for us," said health department spokesperson Pat Living.
"There was such an overwhelming response to when we initially opened up that our booking system went down."
The government's online booking system for vaccinations has been operating since last month, but until Thursday only priority groups — healthcare workers, older residents in Whitehorse, people in rural communities — could make appointments.
On Thursday, the government announced that anybody else in Whitehorse could start booking appointments for clinics scheduled next month. That's when the frustrations began.
People who went to the government site and clicked the "book online for your 1st dose" link for the Whitehorse general public were met with an error message.
"There is currently a problem with online bookings for COVID-19 vaccines. We are working to resolve the issue. Thank you for your patience," the page reads.
Kassidy Goyette said she tried to book an appointment right away on Thursday morning with no luck.
"I periodically tried through the day and then in the evening and night — it was the same," she said.
"I was kind of frustrated because I anticipated that they would have assumed this would have happened, there would be high traffic.
Edith MacAdam tried to book an appointment by phone on Thursday for her second vaccine dose — she's over 60 and has already received her first dose — but found herself stuck on hold for about 20 minutes, with no information about the problem.
"You'd think by now, having the problem, they could have a different message on the phone or have some alternate way to do the appointment," she said.
3,400 successful bookings
Living said the site was working again by Thursday night and about 3,400 people managed to book an appointment before the site crashed again on Friday morning.
"So we've had I.T. folks on it pretty much for the last 24 hours, going with little or no sleep, trying to get it all fixed," she said.
Living said part of the problem is that the booking site has separate pages for different communities, age groups, and those booking their first or second doses.
"So we've just had a real complex calendar that has presented some coding issues and has also, you know, contributed to the problem," she said.
By mid-morning on Friday, the government said the booking system was working for upcoming vaccination clinics in rural communities and for priority populations in Whitehorse. Others residents would have to wait before trying again.
"We have been sort of rebuilding as we go. So our next focus is opening for 60-plus [age group] for second dose, and those 18 years and older for first dose," Living said.
With files from Cheryl Kawaja and Philippe Morin