TORONTO – Residents in Peel Region, one of Ontario’s COVID-19 hotspots, expressed frustration Monday at their inability to book vaccinations close to home amid a crush of demand after the province accelerated second doses in areas where the Delta variant is spreading.
The province had said people in seven regions who got their first dose on May 9 or earlier could book a second shot starting Monday. Spots, however, were quickly filled.
One resident of Mississauga, Ont., Rodrigo Cokting, said he would have to drive more than 100 kilometres to Simcoe, Ont., to get a second dose, initially scheduled for August, after finding nothing nearby.
“It’s not ideal but it’s what was available so I booked it because I really want to get the second shot and two weeks after that finally feeling fully protected,” he said.
Other residents from Mississauga, which is in Peel Region, had similar trouble trying to book an appointment in the city.
Another Mississauga resident, Mike Morden, 45, said he waited on the provincial website for 90 minutes to reserve his second dose only to end up booking a spot in Toronto by phone.
“It took a lot of effort,” Morden said.
Residents in other Delta variant hotspots also discovered they would have to travel for a shot.
One Twitter user in Toronto complained of waiting 90 minutes only to find an available appointment more than an hour’s drive away in Alliston.
In York Region, Susan Farina took to social media to complain she was able to select an appointment but, after a 30-minute wait, was told the slot was no longer available.
“The booking websites are seriously deficient,” Farina said.
Health authorities in Peel Region, which has been hit by the more contagious Delta variant, confirmed clinics were fully booked but said more appointments would be offered throughout the week. The health unit encouraged residents to check back later.
Similarly, York Region said its second-dose spots were filled by before 9:00 a.m. and asked for patience.
“We’re grateful that so many of our residents are stepping up to get their second dose to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community,” it said in a statement.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said appointment shortages were typical when areas were opened to second doses. She said millions of doses were on the way.
“We’re just asking people to be patient,” Elliott said. “If they try later on in the day, they generally find that spots are available.”
On the topic of offering residents vaccine incentives in an effort to curve shot hesitancy, Elliott said that motive is not being considered by the province right now.
“We are seeing that people are coming forward quite willingly to receive their shots,” the Health Minister said Monday.
“We already have over 74 per cent of the adult population has received their first dose and we are well on our way to have 20 per cent of the population [fully vaccinated] in order to move us into Step 2 of our reopening plan, so we’re very grateful to the people of Ontario to being so willing to receive their shots.”
Scientific evidence shows people with one vaccine dose are less protected against the highly infectious Delta variant.
Peel Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said last week that science shows that only 33 to 50 per cent protection is afforded against the Delta variant with one dose.
“That protection may not be enough to forestall a resurgence if we reopen and reengage too quickly,” Dr. Loh said at the time.
A new study in England suggests the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are notably effective at keeping people from ending up in the hospital with a COVID-19 variant, even after just one dose.
Public Health England says it looked at the records of 14,000 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant between April 12 and June 4.
It found two doses of either vaccine were more than 90 per cent effective at keeping people out of the hospital.
After one dose, Pfizer was 94 per cent effective against hospitalization, and AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 71 per cent effective.
On Monday, the province reported 447 new cases of COVID-19 and four more related deaths. Peel, along with Toronto, Waterloo, the Timmins area and Durham Region, remained the most affected areas.