Monday morning, June 14th: Dh & I are both 10 weeks post-first vaccines (AstraZeneca). The time between first and second shots (of any COVID-19 vaccine) was originally set at 16 weeks, then shortened to 12 weeks (which, for us = June 28th). But over the weekend, the provincial government announced an accelerated vaccination schedule, hoping to ward off a new surge in cases caused by the Delta variant. Anyone 18+ living in certain COVID-19 "hotspot" regions (including ours) who received their first shots before May 9th (including AstraZeneca -- we got ours on April 5th) may now book appointments for their second shots, as of 8 a.m. this morning.
This is Ontario. We are several (six?) months into vaccinations, into the second round, and -- still -- nothing about booking them is simple or easy. Some on Twitter have dubbed it "the Ontario Vaccine Hunger Games 2.0." (One tweet I saw quipped something to the effect of, "What's going to kill me first? -- covid or the stress of trying to book a vaccine?") Anxiety and stress levels are running high.
- Try the provincial vaccinations portal.
- Try the regional vaccinations portal. (Yes, each region has its own portal on top of the provincial one. Don't ask me why??)
- The pharmacy where we got our first (AstraZeneca) vaccine on April 5th assured us at that time that they would contact us when second shots became available??
- I could also enter our names & contact information on the wait lists for second shots at as many other local pharmacies offering vaccinations as I have patience to register at, and hope that one of them pans out. (I read a post from one woman who printed off 23 pages (!) listing local pharmacies offering the vaccine and started driving around to them in person. Luckily, she was able to book vaccines for herself and her husband at the first one she visited!)
- Try to find out if there are any pop-up sites in our area.
Here's how my day went:
- I logged onto the provincial portal shortly after 8 a.m... and learned I was 100,000th+ in line, with an estimated wait time of an hour & a half. So I spent the next hours & a half keeping an eye on the little man striding purposefully toward the edge of my screen (reminding me, curiously, of trying to buy tickets online for "Hamilton" -- which, of course, never got used, because, pandemic).
- I finally made it in... entered my health card number, birth date and other info -- and... got a message that there were no available appointments. (eyeroll)
- I decided to try the regional portal. Several of the sites listed already showed "No appointments available." I clicked on the site closest to us that was supposedly offering appointments (a new hospital). Estimated wait time: 2 &1/2 hours. (I closed the window and tried not to swear.)
- I checked the website for the local pharmacy where we'd received our first shots. I learned they're offering Pfizer as well as AstraZeneca. The website assured me that if I'd received my first vaccination there, they would be contacting us when supply/appointments became available. (But when??)
- I called the phone number and got a message reiterating the same as the website. I debated whether to zero out and try to speak to a pharmacist, but decided they were probably swamped with calls and that I shouldn't be an a**hole. So I hung up. (I reserve the right to be an a**hole in the future if I start getting really desperate, lol...)
- Around noon, dh & I were delighted when we both received emails from the pharmacy, asking whether we had a preference for second shots -- AZ or Pfizer? Oh boy, decision time. I wish they would have told us which one (if any?) would be available first, because that's the one I would have picked.
- We ultimately decided to go with Pfizer, despite the lack of hard data on its effectiveness and safety when mixed with AZ -- mainly because my mother (who was NOT happy that we'd had AZ before!!) had nagged me about it the last several times I spoke with her! (eyeroll again)
- We both received confirmation emails saying... they would be in touch when appointments became available. Well, okay. At least we know we're in the queue.... (With the first shots, it was 2-3 days between when we signed up for the waiting list and when we got appointments -- which were for the following day.) That helped to ease my anxiety a bit.
- A FB friend (living in another region in the Toronto area) posted that she'd been successful in booking appointments. Told her about my morning, she looked at my region's website & mentioned that there seemed to be several different sites/clinics with appointments available. I checked it out. The list of sites would show "Appointments available" -- but when you clicked on the link to try to book, no appointments were available on any of the dates shown.
- However, there was a message on some sites that new appointments would open up at 3 p.m.
- 3 p.m.: Tried the provincial portal (again). Got through almost right away and was shown two sites which supposedly had available appointments... both of them in Hamilton, 80 km (about 45-60 minutes) away. Pass.
- Tried the regional portal & clicked on all the (supposedly) available sites/clinics, both near and far. Every single one had NO available appointments listed. The one at the hospital closest to us said, "New appointments at 3:15." Okay, sounds promising... Tried at 3:15 and was taken to a completely blank screen. Refreshed the screen several times. Nothing.
- 3:45 p.m.: Tried refreshing the screen again, on a whim. New message: "You are now in line. Thank you for your patience. Your estimated wait time is more than 7 hours." I left the window open. A half hour later, it was down to 2 hours.
- 4:30 p.m. (about 45 minutes later): I'm in!! Asked to pick a date up to two weeks away. Would you believe I clicked on ALL 14 DATES and not ONE appointment was available??
- Closed out the window and decided to call it a day. ;)