Head of Ont. COVID-19 vaccine task force says he is 'confident in the system' ahead of booking portal launch
TORONTO -- The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force says he is confident that the launch of the province’s online booking portal will go smoothly on Monday but noted that officials will be quick to deal with any “hiccups” that arise.
“We are confident in the system itself but we all know in many places there are some hiccups and sometimes the systems go down for a while,” Retired Gen. Rick Hillier said at a rare Sunday news conference at Queen’s Park.
“If it does go down for a while, we’ll fix it and get it back up but while it is down, there will not be a single empty chair in a vaccination clinic.”
While several other provinces have already launched their online vaccine appointment websites, including Quebec and Alberta, Ontario’s vaccine task force said it wanted to test its system further to ensure it would not crash.
As of 8 a.m. tomorrow, the province’s booking portal will go live and residents born in 1941 or earlier will be permitted to book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Hillier said the province has “stress-tested” the system in advance of Monday’s launch.
“As of Friday, we’ve booked more than 15,000 appointments for Toronto Public Health using the online booking system. It was done without a flaw,” he said.
He said that in addition to the online portal, more than 2,200 operators will be ready to book appointments at the province’s call centre and operators will be able to take an estimated 10,000 calls per hour.
“So we’ve done the initial work. We are prepared to ramp up even further if necessary or if the call centre doesn’t get that many calls, we’ll ramp back down when it’s appropriate,” Hillier said.
About 800,000 appointments will be available to book when the province’s system goes live, he added.
“We’ve got a machine here that is turning on literally as we speak with mass vaccination clinics starting in Toronto this week, more in Peel, and Dufferin and quite literally right around the province,” he said.
“By the end of this coming week, early next week, we will have more than 100 mass vaccination clinics across the province plus the pharmacies... plus family doctors.”
Many regions across Ontario have already started administering vaccines to the oldest members of the community using their own booking portals.
“Most of the public health units and hospitals have some kind of system themselves... that is a great redundancy to have for a week to two weeks while we bring the online system in place,” he said.
Hillier said that the province hopes to begin booking appointments for the next age group sometime in early April.
“As soon as we start to see the capacity in our pipeline, greater than the number of 80 year olds that we have to get vaccines to, we will begin calling forward that next bracket to register and book an appointment,” he said.
“Based on the numbers going through, I would simply say somewhere early in April we will be calling forward 75 year olds and upwards, faster if we get more vaccines rolling in.”
Premier Doug Ford said Sunday that the province has the capacity to administer 4.8 million vaccine doses per month but is currently only receiving enough supply to do about a quarter of that number.
In total, Ontario has administered a little under 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine provincewide.