As phone lines opened to book COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public, call centres across British Columbia received nearly two million calls within the first two hours of operation.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that as of 9:40 am, about 1.7 million calls had been received.
But appointments are only being given to seniors above the age of 90, or Indigenous peoples above the age of 65, creating massive waits for those who are actually eligible.
“Obviously, we’re getting some calls beyond that group of people,” he said. “Obviously, some people are calling multiple times as well.”
Dix noted that in BC, there are about 47,000 British Columbians over the age of 90 and 35,000 Indigenous peoples above the age of 65.
“I very much appreciate the enthusiasm of everybody calling in but I would ask that people allow those who are eligible this week to book appointments to have priority,” Dix stressed.
“If you’re not calling on behalf of someone over 90 years old, and we’d like one person per person over 90 years old to call in, or you’re not over 90 years old and above or if you’re not an Indigenous person 65 years old and above, this is not the time to call in.”
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Dix added that call centres are currently booking thousands of appointments, noting that exact numbers would be available during BC’s COVID-19 update scheduled for Monday at 3 pm.
Describing the 1.7 million inquiries as a “massive number of phone calls,” he says that if they were to continue, “no phone system would respond to that.”
“There are lots of appointments… We have five days to book appointments… If your appointment isn’t booked today there will be space and there is appointment time. The opportunity is there.”
Clinic locations across BC have been announced, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15, and people can book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule:
- March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90+ years)/Indigenous peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
- March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85+ years) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
- March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80+ years) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
The province said that people should only call in when they are eligible, although “anyone who misses their age-based dates can still call, book and be vaccinated any time after they become eligible.” Each health authority has a unique call centre number.
A senior can also have a family member, friend, or support person call for them.
More to come…