No invite necessary: Some in BC book bivalent COVID booster via hotline

Oct 4 2022, 8:12 pm

Jonathan Ichikawa was tired of waiting for his COVID-19 bivalent booster and sped up the process this month by booking an appointment before receiving his invitation.

The professor and department head at UBC was inspired by another person’s success on Twitter, and called the province’s vaccination hotline at 1-833-838-2323. He was able to book an appointment for the following day.

“I thought I’d give it a try. And I was surprised to discover that it was very straightforward,” he said.

He received his last booster in January, more than eight months ago, and expected to receive the same text invitation to book as last time.

“It sort of feels like they’re not telling people that they’re eligible,” he said. “There’s some failures of communication happening for sure.”

Ichikawa is just one of many BC residents who’ve booked their dose of Moderna’s new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine without an invitation, raising questions about the rollout among people who are keen to get another booster before case counts inevitably ramp up this fall.

BC began its rollout of the updated shot last month. It offers protection against the original strain as well as the Omicron variant.

Vancouver Coastal Health, which began administering bivalent shots on September 19, advises residents to wait for their invitation to book an appointment because vulnerable groups are being put at the front of the queue.

But some British Columbians have posted to social media saying waiting for an invite wasn’t necessary for them — they were able to get vaccinated by calling the province’s vaccination hotline directly at 1-833-838-2323.

“The provincial rollout is an absolute mess. You don’t have to wait!” Twitter use Faye said, who got an appointment the same day when she called.

A Reddit thread has also emerged where people are sharing how they got the bivalent vaccine before an invitation prompted them.

“I’m eight months from my last booster and haven’t received my invite. I called yesterday morning and got jabbed within two hours at my local pharmacy,” user systic said. “Sharing because public health messaging is making this way harder than it really is.”

Not all users were so lucky, though. Some shared that the hotline representatives wouldn’t let them book.

“Nine months since my booster and [I] phoned. They told me to wait until I get an invite,” user _Zeoce_ said. They were able to get vaccinated at the Langley Event Centre, however.

Daily Hive reached out to the Ministry of Health with questions about who is actually eligible, and the Ministry responded that only people who haven’t yet had six month elapse since their last booster need to wait for an invitation.

“If it has been more than six months since your most recent dose, you are 18 years of age or older and you feel a booster dose is necessary (e.g. you are caring for someone who is at higher risk of severe disease), the call centre can help you book an appointment,” the Ministry said.

As for Ichikawa, he’s glad he was able to get an appointment — and hopes others keen to get their dose phone too.

“They were clearly very happy to give me that dose,” Ichikawa said of his experience. “I hope that people who particularly need these vaccines are aware [phoning for an appointment] is possible.”


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