Ontario says that just over 30,400 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in a single day.
Imagine booking an appointment, being told it would about a 10-minute process, and having to wait an hour and a half; that’s exactly what has happened to some.
On Monday in York Region seniors at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital faced a lineup that stretched through several hallways. What was supposed to be a 10-minute line turned into a wait that in some cases was more than an hour.
Video obtained by 680 NEWS shows grouped seniors packed together and in some cases, caretakers filling their spot in line to give their loved ones rest.
We have blurred the video to protect the identity of those in the line.
In a statement to 680 NEWS, Mackenzie Health says the line “was not acceptable.”
“Mackenzie Health is supporting York Region Public Health’s vaccine rollout to seniors 80 years of age and older, which started on Monday, March 1. In the first hour or so on the first day the vaccine became available to this group, long lines formed outside our COVID-19 vaccine clinic with those eligible to receive the vaccine in this first phase of the rollout registered for appointments, including seniors along with their caregivers,” the statement read.
“For many reasons, including the cold weather, the vulnerable seniors in line, as well as the need for appropriate physical distancing, this long line was not acceptable and we worked to address the issue right away.”
Vaughan’s mayor says, understandably, there has been a great deal of public interest in vaccines for this priority group. The success of the online registration and ongoing demand to be vaccinated is proof that the city’s efforts are working, adding that this is just the start of the vaccine rollout.
“Vaccines are here, they are safe, effective and our best hope for bringing this pandemic to an end. As supply becomes available, York Region is prepared and ready to bring vaccines to all those who want them, in priority order,” Maurizio Bevilacqua said in an email.
“We ask the public to be patient with the process. We have a plan, we have a structure of how to implement that plan, but it is all contingent on receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. Working together to get support from the community and all levels of government has been key in our fight against COVID-19.”
“Future appointments will be available once capacity allows and vaccine supply is available. Please check ‘york.ca/COVID19Vaccine‘ often for updates. I remain confident that by working together and supporting each other, we will emerge stronger,” Vaughan’s mayor said.
A tip call to the 680 newsroom reported similar issues at another York Region hospital, alleging seniors were forced to wait outside at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex in Newmarket.
They said wait times exceeded two hours with lines stretching outside and around the block.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says government officials are aware of these concerns and acknowledged more needs to be done to help seniors feel comfortable ahead of the vaccination process.
“We are trying to make sure that we bring people in with appropriate appointments and that we recognize the needs of people over 80 that there need to be more places perhaps for people to sit, to be able to use any walking aids that they need,” Elliott said on Thursday.
“There are people on hand to bring people water, but we’re really trying to make sure that we have the appointments made at appropriate intervals so we’re continuing to work on that.”
This comes after a similar incident on Monday in Richmond Hill where York Region residents were forced to wait outside in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site for residents 80 years and older.
Michelle Stebbing told The Canadian Press that she waited in line for her parents as they stayed warm with her sister in a car parked nearby.
She said her parents were more fortunate than others because they had two children who could help them book their vaccine appointments and hold their spots in line.
“There should be some sort of sign-in where you leave your phone number or something and then you can be in your car,” said Stebbing, who added that she was relieved her parents would be getting their doses of vaccine.
York Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji tells 680 NEWS that they’re considering this a learning experience.
“We definitely don’t want people waiting out in the cold. We have now got busses available to keep individuals warm where the caretakers can potentially lineup,” said Kurji.
“We all really are saddened by these particular experiences. They definitely aren’t our intent. We are all taking steps to correct any lapses with respect to planning and you will see things improve and improve as we go forward.”
The opposition says she is concerned for those being forced into uncomfortable situations as they wait for a vaccine.
“This is not the first time that we’ve seen people waiting in long, long line ups trying to address COVID-19,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
“Whether it’s testing lineups when the Premier decided to open up the testing against the advice of experts, or whether it’s in the context of this vaccine rollout which the government seems to be not prepared for.”
In Halton, the region is now offering online booking and vaccinations for everyone 80-and-older ahead of the provincial rollout on March 15 when the online booking portal is slated to go live.
The Ontario Dental Association issued a statement confirming registration for the COVID-19 vaccine is now open to dentists in Halton, Durham, and Hamilton.
In Toronto, various hospital sites are at different stages of opening registration and pre-registration.
Durham Region will also open up its bookings next week with appointments starting on Tuesday.