TORONTO -- Appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine in York Region are completely booked after about 20,000 people registered to get the shot within the first two hours on Monday, officials said.

Last week, both York Region and Hamilton committed to starting mass vaccinations among senior residents on March 1 ahead of the launch of the provincial booking portal.

Time slots for the COVID-19 vaccine in York Region could be booked as of 8 a.m. on Monday. Officials urged patience as a large number of people tried to use the online booking system.

“Due to high traffic to our site, booking for York Region’s Vaccination Clinics at is operating slower than usual,” officials said on Twitter early Monday morning. “We appreciate your patience as we work to resolve this issue. Thank you.”

While some people took to social media to say they were able to book an appointment for either this week or the next, others reported that the website had crashed and that people were being directed to a phone line that tells them to “call back later.”

According to Karim Kurji, Medical Officer of Health for York Region, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., there were about 24,000 people trying to book a vaccine slot, something he said “isn’t very desirable.”

“We urge patience,” Kurji said. “We’re going to be serving everyone. And we suggest, you know, with the limitations of the booking systems, ect. and the limitations mainly in the supply of vaccines, we have to slow down a little bit. So please, have patience with us and if you can’t get through, try again at some other point.”

As of late Monday morning, officials in York Region posted an update on Twitter saying that there are no more appointments available at their clinics due to the high demand.

“Future appointments will be available once capacity allows and vaccine supply is available. Please check back often as announcements are made on various channels.”

Meanwhile, a long line could be seen outside of the clinic at Newmarket’s Ray Twinney Recreational Complex, located near Yonge Street and Davis Drive, on Monday morning. Some people had to be turned away after showing up to get the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment.

Ray Marchand, who is eligible to get the vaccine, said he tried to book an appointment and failed.

“This morning we got on and we tried to book an appointment and we were on for about an hour and a half so we thought we'd come here to see if someone could help us book it,” he said.

“The gentleman here told us he couldn't help us book it. We brought our own computer and we thought maybe somebody could help us. I mean I'm 83 and she's 80, and we just couldn't figure it out.”

vaccine line up

In York Region, two additional COVID-19 vaccination clinics will open this week to help expedite the process for residents 80 years of age or older.

The new sites include the Richmond Green Sports Centre in Richmond Hill (open on March 1) and Georgina Ice Palace in the Town of Georgina (open on March 3).

On Sunday, the City of Hamilton warned that the public health COVID-19 hotline was already experiencing issues “due to high volumes.”

“We continue to work on resolving the issue,” city officials said on Twitter. “If you’re calling to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine (85+ years old only at this time), please be patient as there may be delays.”

In Hamilton, anyone over the age of 85, or who is turning 85 years of age by the end of the year, can book an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton West 5th COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic.

Seniors who received care at a Hamilton hospital or hospital clinic over the past six months will be contacted by a health official for an appointment, while anyone else within that age category will need to register for an appointment by calling the public health unit’s COVID-19 hotline.

On Monday, some people on Twitter questioned the antiquated nature of the booking system, and some said that once they were able to get through to a health official, they still didn’t know when their appointment would be.

“A little misleading to say ‘calling to book an appointment,’ when in actual fact you are calling to register and have to wait for a phone call with your appointment time and location. Was happy to get my mom ‘registered’ yesterday, but still no call with an actual appointment.”

Another Twitter user said they were able to get through on Sunday morning.

“Thankfully, I was able to get through this morning on behalf of my mother,. I am just perplexed as to why you are using such an antiquated and inefficient system?”

The only other GTA regions to announce vaccine appointment details for residents 80 years of age or older are Halton and Peel Region.

On Monday, officials in Halton said an online booking system is set to launch on March 3 for those in that age category to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

In Peel Region, the William Osler Health System (Osler) said it now vaccinating residents in the region who are 80 years of age and older or who will be turning 80 in 2021.

"Starting, Monday, March 1, eligible residents are able to book appointments by phone through a dedicated line and online through Osler’s website to receive their COVID-19 vaccine," the hospital said. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott has said all of the province’s 34 local public health units will be able to vaccinate elderly residents ahead of March 15, when the province’s booking portal is set to launch, but will have to use their own system until its web portal is ready.

At that point, all public health units will have to transition to the provincial system.