The COVID-19 Vaccination Screw Up

Vaccines!For a long time during this pandemic, Susan and I were in the “not eligible” age bracket for the COVID-19 vaccination (65-79 years old) here in Ontario. Why our age group was left out I have never been able to uncover. Maybe some politicians felt we were more expendable than other groups. But late last week, the provincial government finally announced it had expanded eligibility to our group. Whoopee! So we immediately went online to book a slot.

The Ontario government site, however, directed us to book through the local Simcoe-Muskoka health unit (SMHU). So we went to its website and dutifully entered our information with email and mobile phone contacts. Then we waited.

And waited.

Of course, we didn’t expect to get an appointment right away, but we expected at least an acknowledgement that we were in the queue. Something to let us know the system was working. But we heard nothing.

After five days of not hearing anything, I went back to the SMHU website to see if anything had changed, or if there was some problem. I could find nothing to explain the silence. But now it had a notice saying to “CLICK HERE to book online through the Province of Ontario’s online booking system…”

Sigh. It seemed we had to start all over. So I dutifully clicked and went to the province’s booking site to enter the information again. The province’s site is not designed to register a couple, just individuals, so we could only hope that if we did get one person’s appointment, we’d be able to book the other’s at least the same day. One wonders why the government didn’t take couples into account and make it easier for seniors.

(And by the way: if you go to our town’s own website looking for information about vaccinations, booking appointments, and eligible age groups… forget it. It’s a waste of time. They have nothing substantial; just links to other — hopefully more informed — sites.)

After providing the pertinent information and postal code for myself, I checked all the available sites in Collingwood (both are at the Legion). No time slots available in April. None in May. Nor June… I scrolled through the calendars for both until December. Nothing,

Now consider that our town has a higher demographic of seniors than the provincial average, and the whole region has been the target of many hundreds or even thousands of retirees moving from the GTA for the past five or more years. Then wonder why the provincial government hasn’t taken that into account.

And there are no local pharmacies or healthcare centres offering vaccinations at this time, either (those that do offer than are 100kms away or more). 

While I can’t blame the faults with the vaccination booking system or its oversight about couples on local politicians, I asked myself why our local municipal council has not aggressively pressed the province to provide more vaccines and appointment times for the town and the region. Especially given the number of long-term care homes and seniors in our area. Why isn’t our council being proactive and advocating for our residents? I wonder if any on council are even aware of those demographics.

(It’s probably the same reason why our council hasn’t done anything of note to help local businesses affected by the lockdowns, help people unemployed by the lockdowns, help seniors and people with disabilities who are isolated during the lockdowns, help families with children, help distressed residents pay their utility bills and taxes… simple answer: they’re so obsessed with the SVJI they cannot see beyond that.* And perhaps our mayor is too busy job-hunting to get out of his responsibilities as mayor to be concerned with something so inconsequential as the state of our community’s health.**)

So with no time slots available for vaccination in my own town in the remaining nine months of this year, I was pretty unhappy and low. After all, if you can’t get vaccinated in your own town, it seems the program is broken.

I next checked the two sites in nearby Wasaga Beach. Nothing there, either (I gave up looking after September). Then I went further afield to check the two sites in Midland and then those in Penetang. Same thing: nothing available through to the end of September, after which I quit looking. Given my recent experience with cancer and my age, I didn’t want to wait much longer, and certainly not until 2022.

Next, I checked the first two sites in Barrie — the closest at 60 km away. They also had no time slots until at least after September in either of them. I was getting stressed and anxious, wondering how far I’d have to travel to get an appointment, and how long I’d have to wait. Or even if I’d be able to get a vaccination anywhere in 2021.

Then I checked the final vaccination centre in Barrie, now a full 70kms away. To my surprise and delight, that had a few time slots available for April. I booked the first one. Then I had to go back through my browser and start all over again for Susan. Fortunately, we were both able to get an appointment within the same hour on the same day, so we don’t need to make two trips to Barrie.

The process wasn’t hard for me because I’m reasonably computer literate and able to find my way around the Net, but it was frustrating and awkward to have to do it like this and then have to do it twice. For less tech-savvy seniors, it must be a nightmare to try and navigate back and forth between numerous vaccination centres, searching for available dates, finding none, then looking for another, each one further away than the last one. And doubly so for couples who want to book appointments together. Why doesn’t the province consider that?

We’re still waiting for an email or text from the SMHU to acknowledge our registration, but more than a week later, it’s still not arrived.  I’m not sure it ever will.

Ontario deserves better.

PS. Book yours ASAP and if there’s nothing in your immediate vicinity, look further.  Keep looking until you find a place you can comfortably travel to. Don’t even think of skipping it.

~~~~~

* I was reminded of these verses:

Mired in this view, lost to themselves
with their meagre understanding,
these fiends contrive terrible acts
to destroy the world.

Subject to insatiable desire,
drunk with hypocrisy and pride,
holding false notions from delusion,
they act with impure vows.

Confused by endless thoughts,
caught in the web of delusion,
given to satisfying their desires,
they fall into hell’s foul abyss.

Self-aggrandizing, stubborn…

Submitting to individuality, power,
arrogance, desire, and anger,
they hate me and revile me…

From the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, verses 8-19, translated by Barbara Stoller Miller, Penguin-Random House, 1986.

** Please take a moment to read, in chronological order, the previous posts I published on Mayor Saunderson’s potential conflicts of interest and his dubious ethics in this job-hunting campaign to get out of being mayor while he continues to be paid for that job, and his past performance in local politics:

  1. An Honourable Mayor?
  2. Saunderson’s Role in Blocking the Hospital Redevelopment
  3. Why Saunderson Should Resign Now
  4. Saunderson’s Still Here
  5. Enough B.S. (Brian Saunderson)
  6. Seven Years in Politics? But Where?
  7. Should Children be Recruited in Party Politics?
  8. Still Can’t Escape the B.S. (Brian Saunderson)
  9. The Inquiry Cost $250,000 More? Where We Lied To?
  10. Let’s Play Spread the Virus!
  11. Saunderson Still Won’t Do the Right Thing
  12. Bones of Contention: Saunderson’s Campaign Emails

The honourable thing to do would be for him to resign while he job-hunts for a better-paying job in Toronto and stop taking the town’s paycheque for a position he clearly wants to be out of. But he stubbornly refuses to do the right thing.

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5 Comments

  1. Ian, Whilst some of your recent frustration with the online covid booking system is probably quite valid may I suggest that perhaps the reason that you have been unable to get an appointment locally (or in many other locations) that said places cannot book you in for a shot if they do not have the shot available to give it to you! In my own area the available doses were booked ahead within hours. Personally I think that our younger folks who are keeping our food supply and similar essential services available should have higher priority. As a senior of similar age as yourself (but with minimal heath issues) I can avoid mixing in high risk areas, that said folks with heath issues should have higher priority and better communication is badly needed in the ‘system’.

    PS I do enjoy reading your ‘rants’ even though I have little real interest with your local problems, I do suspect that you have little problem with LOW blood pressure however!

    • Thanks for the kind words and the comment. I agree that frontline and necessary/essential workers (including teachers) should get the shot sooner, regardless of their age 9we have a lot of seniors in retail here). I assume since the government added our age group to the eligibility that they had a reason for doing so (yes, I know, assuming politicians have a valid reason for anything invites ridicule…) and that key groups were either added or already covered.

      However, my blood pressure is quite low. Low enough, in fact, that when I was recovering from surgery they had to boost it a bit in hospital. But thanks for the concern. My writing helps keep it low because I can blow off steam here and not keep it bottled up. And I have music, computer games, reading, cooking, and pets to keep me calm. 😉

  2. Bill Malcolm

    The tale you relate here is pretty scary, as you say, for other local seniors who aren’t as adept with their PCs and the web as you are. Appointments stretching out to the fall? Wow. Still, you managed April shots, which isn’t too bad if you discount the drive to get them.

    At age 73 and living in Nova Scotia, I felt gloomy when my 65 year-old brother in Calgary emailed me on Mar 16 that he had an appointment for a jab on April 7. At a pharmacy two blocks from home, no less. Here, we were still wading through the 80+ age group in our Phase 2. But a lot of essential and frontline workers are included in that Phase as well. Real mass vaccination of the general population in Phase 3 was supposed to start in April, with the 75 to 79 year olds.

    Our provincial Chief Public Health Officer in NS has guided us through the pandemic very well indeed, but the aura of bureaucracy had gotten bad enough on the vaccine rollout that reporters and others were on his case. He’s a stickler for crossing his t’s and dotting his i’s. He held back vaccine for second doses as per original manufacturers’ recommendations for either 3 or 4 weeks for those who had actually got their first jab. And ethically, all those who got the shot and were told their second shot would be in that short time period (before NACI changed its mind to a single dose strategy), were not abandoned as he made sure that promise was observed.

    But his response that everything was going according to plan when NS came out dead last for vaccines administered has caused grumbling. Nobody paid any attention to his statements that he was using Phase 1 and 2 as prototypes for setting up centres and pharmacies for Phase 3 and getting the provincial booking website working properly, plus hiring more folks manning the phone calls for appointments for those not web savvy.

    So here it is, Easter, and NS is still dead last in vaccinations among the provinces. Just a week ago, eligibility was announced for 75 to 79 year-olds to book appointments, either online or by phone.

    I was thus caught unawares when just two days ago on April 1, appointments were opened for 70 to 74 year-olds. Thank goodness for aware relatives! I went online and in ten minutes had booked my jabs. The pharmacies were all used up already after a full day of booking ahead of “unaware” me, so I had to choose a big venue.

    Unlike Ontario, the webpage gave me an approval appointment at once, and ring-a-ding as I was absorbing and bookmarking that, the Gmail pinged and there was a confirmation email as well. Not bad. You’re told when and where to arrive, in my case at a huge mall disused outlet which has parking to infinity, and advised about the vaccines to be used, and the 15 min period after the shot to make sure you don’t keel over, in a socially distanced waiting area. Holy s**t! Are they actually that organized?

    So they give you appointments for both jabs at the same time and the same place. Mine are on April 14 and July 28. Part of the email follows.

    “W, your COVID-19 vaccination appointment at Dartmouth COVID-19 Clinic — Public has been confirmed.

    What: Central – Dartmouth COVID-19 Dose 1: People age 70 and over.
    When: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 9:40 AM ADT
    Where: Mic Mac Mall (Beside Chapters), 39 Mic Mac Blvd Dartmouth NS B3A 4Y8

    Arrive at the clinic 5 minutes before your scheduled appointment. If you arrive earlier, you may need to wait outside the clinic before entering. Please dress for the weather.

    What to bring to your appointment: Your health card. Wear a short sleeve t-shirt or a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled up. Wear a mask. Read the Coronavirus Vaccine Factsheet and prepare any questions you have about the vaccine. After you get the vaccine you need to stay in the clinic area to be observed for 15 minutes.

    Dose 2 Appointment: For your convenience, 1st and 2nd dose appointments are booked together, at the same time, 105 days apart.”

    Things are looking up. Maybe NS will catch up to the other provinces on vaccination jab percentage totals as Spring rolls on.

    Here’s hoping you get your confirmation email soon.

  3. We got our first vaccinations yesterday. It was easy, albeit involved a lot of waiting time. Line up to enter and get the first screening, line up to register, line up to be allowed into the arena, line up to speak with the second screener and answer questions, line up to get your shot, wait 15 minutes, then line up to be released. Took about 45 minutes overall. We both brought books to read while we waited.

    Everyone doing the work, from those guiding us to our locations to the doctor administering the vaccine, was pleasant and patient, and made it all happen without stress. We’re relieved and happy and looking forward to shot number two (in July).

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