'Adding more anxiety': Ottawa residents react to booking woes as provincial eligibility expands
OTTAWA -- For six hours this morning, Brynn Chleirich tried and failed to book her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine through Ontario’s booking portal.
“That’s not helpful, that’s not hope; that’s adding more anxiety and aggravation and frustration and lines and waiting lists,” Cleirich said.
A mother of five, a COVID-19 survivor, and living with Lupus, Cleirich says fear of catching the virus again keeps her up at night.
“When I tested positive, my adult son cried, my youngest twin [boy] cried, because we thought it was a death sentence. That second shot is so very necessary and it’s not available,” Cleirich said.
This week 13,000 additional doses of the vaccine are coming to Ottawa, but those doses are destined for pharmacies; meaning those trying to book through the provincial portal couldn’t access those appointments.
“I didn’t know that. I would’ve put my resources, as limited as they are, into pharmacies first,” Cleirich said.
Eventually, through the help of a Twitter message, Cleirich was able to book an appointment directly through the Bruyère Health Centre. She says she cried tears of joy when she got the confirmation.
Others went to extreme lengths to find their second shot.
“What I did was look into other areas near Ottawa and then I thought maybe just a little bit farther and I could do it but there was nothing,” Jakeline Celis said.
Celis, a new immigrant from Mexico, says she took out a map and began looking up cities around the province where she might be able to get a dose.
“I just started looking into that and then I realized that the bookings were flying really fast. It was saying, ‘Oh yes, there is a place,’ and then, when I clicked, there was nothing and it started to get farther and farther,” she said.
Eventually, Celis was able to book an appointment in Simcoe, a five-hour drive away.
“On one side I said, ‘Oh, my God, thank God,’ but on the other hand it was a little bit disappointing because it is very far away,” Celis said.
Lindsey Ehman was one of the lucky few able to book a second shot in Ottawa through the provincial portal.
“I tried a couple times with my postal code and then managed to get something just about two weeks out,” Ehman said.
Still, she agrees the current system isn’t ideal.
“I want to be supportive and say that any way we can get doses into arms is positive but certainly something a little more predictable would be ideal,” Ehman added.
For pharmacists across Ottawa, the past few days have been just as challenging.
“We found out about [the new AstraZeneca eligibility] but it’s like we just heard about it and the phones started ringing. Since Saturday, Sunday and Monday, it's been non-stop, like even after hours,” ProMed Pharmacy Owner Lubna Fawaz said.
Fawaz says she’s ordered 600 mRNA doses and hopes to begin vaccinations later this week, but isn’t sure how many vaccines she’ll receive or when she’ll have them.
“I’m hoping to get the 600 we ordered but we’re taking it easy. I think we’re going to book 120 [appointments],” she said.
Fawaz says the past few days have been the most stressful in over 20 years of business.
“If we receive more than than 110 doses, we’ll go forward and book again,” she said.