Phone lines were swamped and the Alberta Health Services website crashed on Wednesday morning as seniors rushed to book vaccination appointments.
AHS said, as anticipated, the online booking tool was experiencing very high volumes Wednesday morning when the vaccine program opened up to more people.
“Call volumes to Health Link remain high and wait times may be longer than normal. Please be patient – we anticipate Alberta having enough appointments for all seniors age 75 and older by April, pending vaccine supply.”
By 9:20 a.m., 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments, tweeted AHS. That number had climbed to more than 6,000, according to another tweet.
Alberta Health Services asked that people not call 911 as some were clearly taking that route in frustration.
“Please do not call 911, hospitals or clinics directly to book appointments. 811 or the AHS online booking tool are the two ways to book your vaccine appointment.”
A number of people were expressing their frustration on Twitter.
“So close and then it crashed again. What a joke,” tweeted one.
One woman said she refreshed her screen constantly for one hour and 45 minutes before getting through an booking an appointment on her second attempt after the first failed.
Some reported getting partway through the process, which includes filling out a questionnaire, only to get an error message.
Starting Wednesday all Albertans born in 1946 or earlier (ages 75-plus) can receive the COVID-19 vaccine in two doses.
Alberta government ministers issued a statement on Wednesday morning urging senior Albertans to take advantage of the vaccination program.
“Having more vaccine arriving in our province means we can continue protecting our most vulnerable citizens as quickly as possible, starting with those who are most at risk of severe outcomes,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro. “Immunizing our seniors against COVID-19 is another important step forward in keeping our families, our communities and our health-care system safe.”
Access for eligible seniors to receive a vaccine is crucial” said Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon. “Please reach out to seniors who are 75-plus in your life and offer assistance if they need help with their appointments.”
Seniors who need help getting transportation to their vaccination sites should call 211, she said.
Alberta Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said, “We know that age is the greatest determining factor in whether someone may experience severe outcomes due to COVID-19. I want to remind our eligible seniors that vaccines are safe and effective.
“Now that it is your turn, please arrange to be immunized to protect yourselves and those around you.”
Appointment bookings can be made online at ahs.ca/covidvaccine or by calling Health Link at 811, beginning at 8 a.m.
Family members can book on their behalf, but will need the senior’s Alberta Health Care number and date of birth.