PEI

P.E.I. seniors having trouble booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments through hotline

The province started taking appointments of Islanders 80 and older for the COVID-19 vaccine. However, several Island seniors we’re unable to book an appointment.

High volume means some may have to call back, says province

Officials with Health PEI say when people are able to get through, the process to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine takes five to 10 minutes. (Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)

Islanders 80 and older were able to start making appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, but several seniors were unable to book because the lines were so busy.

Joyce Murray, 94, is hoping to get vaccinated soon.

"Just waiting now to get the needle, and I know there's people that need it worse than I do, but I would like to have it so that I can get on with my life."

Murray said several activities she likes are off-limits because she hasn't gotten the shot yet.

"I'll be glad to get it when my time comes," she said. "I like to play bingo and I like to bowl and I can't do either one."

Ninety-four-year-old Joyce Murray says she is in good health, but her daughter worries about her because she is at a vulnerable age. ( Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

Officials with Health PEI said due to the volume of calls, some people trying to get through will get a message telling them to call back later, and they should follow those instructions.

When people are able to get through the process to book an appointment takes five to 10 minutes.

Murray's daughter Nancy Flynn said she has been trying to get through to book an appointment for her mother since early Thursday morning.

"So, I was up and at eight o'clock on the button I started phoning. And so far I have called …138 times and have not gotten through," Flynn said.

"I know everybody wants the shot, everybody was waiting for this day."

The province plans to increase the number of people taking the calls — and soon people will be able to book an appointment online, says Marion Dowling, the province's chief of nursing. (CBC)

Flynn said she knows her mother is in good health, but worries about her during the pandemic because she is at a vulnerable age.

The delays prompted the province to issue a statement, asking people to be patient. 

Marion Dowling, the province's chief of nursing, said there were technical issues with the lines Thursday.

"We've had a busy day and a busy morning for sure which we expected because we know we've had a lot of our Islanders really anticipating their first dose of the vaccine and when it would be their turn and it's really an exciting time," she said.

The province plans to increase the number of people taking the calls — and soon people will be able to book an appointment online, Dowling said.

Seniors should be patient and keep trying to get through, says Russ Noiles of the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation. (Russ Noiles)

Russ Noiles, president of the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation, said the organization is emailing members to ensure they know they should be calling the line to book an appointment.

"Most clubs have a phone tree so they advance the knowledge to the members that don't have emails," he said. "I think in the 80-plus group would certainly be looking at their chance for a vaccine."

Noiles said seniors should be patient and keep trying to get through to the line.

There are about 5,500 Islanders 80 and over. 

Nearly 500 of them were able to book in for appointments by noon Thursday, said officials with the province.

The first shots are expected to be given out on Feb. 22. The number for Islanders 80 and older to call to book an appointment is 1-844-975-3303.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau and Angela Walker

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