Sudbury·Audio

Northeastern Ontario residents 75+ have to wait a little longer to book vaccinations

Some people in the Sudbury region were disappointed to discover Monday that the health unit has not yet transitioned to the provincial booking system.

Attempt to book vaccination for northeastern Ontario senior winds up being a disappointment

As of yesterday, the Ontario government launched a booking system for people aged 75 and older to make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But health units in the northeast are posting on social media they are still working on vaccinating those in phase one — high priority people such as health care workers and people over 80. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Some people in the Sudbury region were disappointed to discover yesterday that the health unit has not yet transitioned to the provincial booking system.

The Ontario government launched the system Monday for people who are 75 years and older to make their appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

But that doesn't mean everyone is eligible to do so yet.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts says the health unit is still vaccinating high-priority people in phase one including, those who are 80 and over.

Many people in the region tried to make appointments yesterday, including Claire Todd, whose 78-year-old mother lives in Sudbury. Todd says she was looking forward to making sure her mother was vaccinated so she could come for a visit after a year apart.

"I really felt like this was going to be the first day on our road of getting back together and it wasn't, so that's been hard," she said.

"She lives in a really great condominium community where everyone is helping each other so I don't have immediate concerns for her health ... but it's been a long lonely year for her."

The health unit reports it will transition to the provincial booking system, possibly next week.

"So we're right on track and we're right where we should be," said program manager Nastassia McNair.

"And we're hoping to move to age-75-plus, as per phase two requirements, which are set to kick off in April."

McNair says it's possible that some communities in Ontario are vaccinating people who are 75 and over.

"We do know that in the context of limited vaccine supply, that we roll out vaccine as efficiently and safely as possible, as soon as we receive the vaccine. So like anything, I think moving on to the next phase would, of course, depend on supply."

She notes that PHSD is moving the vaccination process at the pace they planned.

"We are not behind. We are right on track for phase one. In fact, we are hoping to move to phase two as of next week."

The North Bay and Parry Sound Health Unit is on the provincial system, but it's asking people to hold off on booking appointments for those 75-79 while it finishes vaccinating those in the first phase. 

And the medical officer of health for the Porcupine health Unit says they're not yet ready to begin vaccinating those 75 years of age and older. Dr. Lianne Catton says it may be another couple of weeks.

Catton says not every part of the province is on the same footing.

"I think it's important to recognize overall that 14 health units across the province received vaccine up to seven weeks after the first region started vaccinating, so that right there is the number one reason we are not at that stage," Catton said.

France Gélinas, the NDP MPP for Nickel Belt and her party's health critic, says her office has been inundated with calls from older adults who have tried and failed to book appointments for vaccinations. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, the NDP' health critic is angry with the province's poor communication about COVID-19 vaccine distribution to older adults.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas says she's been inundated with calls from confused and frustrated constituents.

Gelinas says Premier Doug Ford's announcement caused confusion for those who tried and failed to book a vaccination appointment.

"The Premier never should have made that kind of announcement. Or if he did, then you have to be very specific: 'in this and this and this areas you can do that.' But not leave it [for people] to believe that it applied to the entire province when it did not, and he knew full well that it did not," Gelinas said.

"People are just, you know, like 'I'm not doing that again France, it was so hard to try to go on the website, and then I booked and then I couldn't.' They're giving up, as in they're not going to try again when they're actually, their turn will come."

Gelinas says some older adults are making plans to travel to southern Ontario to get a vaccine from a pharmacy this week.

With files from Kate Rutherford

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