Ottawa residents can book COVID-19 vaccines again, but few appointments available

Ottawa residents can resume booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments Thursday after the provincial booking system was down for three days due to a technical glitch.

However, the head of Ottawa’s vaccine rollout warns there are very few appointments available until the end of June as the province looks to accelerate the timeline between doses.

The city of Ottawa says issues with the provincial booking system have been resolved and bookings to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at city clinics resumed at 12 p.m.

The COVID-19 vaccination appointment system to book appointments at Ottawa's mass vaccination clinics had been offline since Monday following an issue with the provincial system.

Senior city officials were “furious” with the province that the problem took so long to fix, a source told CTV News Ottawa, adding that it was an IT issue that took several meetings to resolve.

"A clinic configuration issue was identified (Monday) morning that is allowing some individuals to book into clinics that do not have available appointments – causing an overbooking in some but not all scenarios," said the Ministry of Health in a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Monday.

The city said Thursday morning that the configuration issue has been resolved.

"Once reopened, appointment availability in community clinics will remain very limited throughout the month of June, given existing bookings. Appointments are directly linked to vaccine supply we receive from the Province," said a memo to council from Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services.

City will contact 80+ residents to book second doses

Rather than risking having seniors go through frustration with the Ontario portal again, city officials decided that Ottawa Public Health would call every resident 80 and older to set up second dose appointments, sources said.

Residents aged 80 and older who do not have a second dose appointment booked will be contacted directly by Ottawa Public Health.  

"This will guarantee access to appointments within the standard second dose interval,” the city said in a news release.

There are currently 17,000 residents aged 80 and older that didn't have a second dose booked. Di Monte says the city has set aside vaccine to ensure that group receives their second dose within the allotted timeframe. 

On Monday, Ontario opened up the provincial portal to allow residents aged 80 and older to book their second dose appointment earlier, as part of a plan to speed up a two-dose summer.

As of Thursday morning, more than 150,000 appointments are booked at city COVID-19 immunization clinics until the end of June.

"Our remaining doses are committed to other channels, including improving coverage in priority neighbourhoods and providing second doses to high priority healthcare workers, as directed by the province," said Di Monte.

Residents competing for doses

Di Monte tells council that while Ottawa has received more vaccines from the province, the government's decision to significantly expand eligibility and shorten select dose intervals will "continue to squeeze" appointment availability in Ottawa.

“As a result of recent provincial announcements, multiple age groups in Ottawa are now competing for the same appointments,” he said. “Someone 12 and above looking for a first dose against someone 80 and above looking for an earlier second dose appointment, for example.

"It will soon become even more challenging to secure an appointment at a community clinic as the Province has previously indicated that those 70 and above will be eligible for a shorten second dose interval as of June 14, which will add up to 80,000 more individuals looking for earlier appointments in June that are simply not available."

Di Monte says the city continues to reach out to the province to see if more vaccine can be allocated to the capital.

"Unless more supply is confirmed from the Province, residents looking to receive a vaccine in June are encouraged to pursue alternate access points, such as their primary care team, if applicable, or a participating pharmacy location," said Di Monte. "Those with confirmed appointments at a community clinic in June should plan to keep and attend those appointments as scheduled."

In an interview on CTV News at Five with Matt Skube, Di Monte insisted Ottawa is getting its fair share of COVID-19 vaccine doses from the province.

"It's a good news, bad news story. The good news is there doesn't seem to be hesitancy here in this community. People understand this is a tool to get us out, this is important," said Di Monte.

"There's no vaccine hesitancy.  So, as we soon as we post vaccine availability, it's taken up right away. We've never had any gaps."

Di Monte said Ottawa needs more vaccine to meet demands.

"We had discussions with the province, they're looking at what can be done."

As of Wednesday, 64 per cent of Ottawa adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A total of 545,850 residents aged 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. An additional 5,592 Ottawa residents 12 to 17 have received at least one dose.

WHAT YOU NEED TO BOOK AN APPOINTMENT FOR A COVID-19 VACCINE

The Ontario government says when booking an appointment through the provincial online system, you will be asked for the following information:

  • Government of Ontario green photo health card
  • Birth date
  • Postal code
  • Email address or phone number

At the time of booking, eligible individuals will schedule their first and second vaccination appointments.