Monday, June 14, 2021

Diary of a desperate vaccine hunter

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. 

My options: 

  • 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. ;) 

Seriously... is this any way to run a booking system?? I mean, who has the time.... ??  (Well, okay, I guess we do... ;)  -- childless, retired, etc.... -- but who WANTS to sit on a laptop all day, clicking around and refreshing screens and stressing out?? And really, why should we have to? Other provinces/countries don't seem to have these issues.)

I will try again tomorrow.  And cross my fingers that our original pharmacy comes through with appointments soon...! 


  1. Oh no! I'm sorry you had such a stressful day. Q. and I also became eligible as we're almost at the eight week mark. We were able to get into the waiting room at 7:48, so we were both through and into the site before 8. I'm booked for the 26th and Q. has an appointment for the 23rd (we decided to not go on the same day since the AZ/Pfizer combo is slightly more likely to produce side effects and I had a wild reaction to the AZ).

    I almost wrote a really long comment on a previous post when you were saying you were planning to get AZ again, but I decided it would sound too bossy, so I didn't. But, to reassure you, now that you have decided to get Pfizer, there are multiple studies out there where they've mixed AZ and Pfizer, they've all shown no problems, and at least two (out of Oxford and now out of Germany) have suggested that getting AZ first and then getting Pfizer gives you BETTER overall protection than just getting two doses of Pfizer. Also 'mixing vaccines' sounds scary, but it's something we do all the time (think about booster shots). I'm super pumped to get Pfizer (or possibly Moderna).

    I hope you get an appointment soon! It's hard to wait, even though this is all still happening so much faster than we originally thought it would. Back in March I figured we wouldn't get vaccinated at all before September!

    1. Have you been talking to my mother?? lol I have no real fear of another AZ and would take it if I knew I could get it sooner. I know it's not quite as effective as the Pfizer, but definitely better than one or none. Anyway, I'm glad you managed to get bookings! -- I probably should have tried before 8 too, but I was finishing up breakfast and I guess I missed that window. I got up around 8 this morning & went straight on my phone to see was available this morning... I was able to get in the provincial site right away -- but it tried to send us to Wasaga Beach, Collingwood and Orillia. 🙄 The regional portal supposedly had limited appointments available at the new hospital near here -- queue took just 20 minutes this time, but I tried all the available dates and nothing available. 🙄 So annoying! I imagine we will wind up back at Rexall... just wish I knew when! But you're right, I didn't think we'd be done until September either. I didn't think I would be getting to Manitoba this summer to see my parents, but the provincial borders are now open, and if we can get fully vaccinated by mid-July and avoid Wave #4, August might be a possibility...!

  2. Oh geez! That sounds like some of our bureaucratic systems.

    I'm encouraged by what Turia says about AZ/Pfizer.

    I hope you were able to snag an appointment today.

    1. Not today. Will keep trying, and hoping that the pharmacy appointment comes through. 🙄 If we don't hear from them soon, I may try some of the other pharmacies in the area that are doing vaccinations. I'd like to get this done before we reach 12 weeks past the first shot, at the end of the month.

  3. Oh yikes. It has not been that hard to book in AB. (To be honest, I wouldn’t have bothered if it was.)

    I had AZ as first shot and will have as second as well, as I don’t want to mix. I’ll take the devil I know. No judgment on people doing whatever they need to do based on their own risk/benefit analysis though. There are so many unknowns.

  4. That's about how it went for my BIL in the Chicago area. I was lucky enough to get my vaccine through work, but he couldn't get in anywhere. (He could have gotten in through my work if he had been more willing to...shade the truth. But he's apparently not very good at that.) He was looking, I was looking, my sister was looking. I booked him an appointment in Chicago, and then they canceled it for him because he lives in the suburbs. It was really frustrating! But he finally got in, as did my sister. Now, since my 14 year old got her second shot last weekend, we can go visit them next month!

    I hope they call you soon with a quick appointment time...