Montrealers desperately trying to get their elderly parents vaccinated against COVID-19 are facing headaches and calls not going through on the first day registrations opened to the general public.
The province announced earlier this week that people aged 85 and older are now eligible for their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine beginning March 1 by appointment only at designated vaccination sites. A new phone line and website were meant to make the process smooth, but some are already facing problems getting an appointment.
“I tried to call the number … and it’s just busy, busy, busy all the time,” said Selina Itzkowitz, who tried calling early Thursday morning.
She said she instead turned to the online registration website to book an appointment for her 94-year-old father, who has Alzheimer’s, and chose a spot available at 8:20 a.m. next Monday. But when she reached the end of the form, she was surprised to see a message saying the time slot was no longer available. She was able to redo it and this time get a spot at 12:50 p.m.
“It would have been smarter if you could put in all the information and then at the end it asks you to pick a time because then you get the time you picked,” said Itzkowitz.
Another concern for her is whether or not she will be able to get her 85-year-old mother vaccinated at the same time. Even though vaccinations are currently restricted only to people 85 and older, those who accompany people in that age group (a spouse, for example) can also receive the shot under certain conditions: that they are 70 years old or older and they provide care for their loved one three or more days per week.
Itzkowitz’s 85-year-old mother qualifies, but there was no option to indicate that on the registration form. Instead, the earliest she could book an appointment for her was five hours after her father’s appointment.
“I’ll have to make two trips now. My father has Alzheimer’s and I can’t leave him alone,” she said. “So, if they’re going to make me come back in the afternoon with my mother I’m going to have to bring him with me.”
The registration website appears to have posted a note later in the day that says an eligible person who is accompanying someone 85 and older “will be able to get vaccinated at the same time as you.”