Ontario should allow every resident to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccine, group says
TORONTO -- Four public health experts and a Toronto city councillor are calling on the province to implement a system that would allow everyone to pre-register to get the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to address confusion over how and when to book a shot.
In an open letter published Wednesday morning, the group says that too many Ontarians are experiencing anxiety about the vaccine process.
“While the vaccine rollout offers an end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Ontarians who have yet to be eligible for the current phase of the vaccination plan are left feeling anxious about when, and how they’ll learn that their turn will finally come,” the letter reads.
“That is why we recommend the province offer a specific category on their call-in and online booking systems that gives Ontarians an opportunity to pre-register for the vaccine.”
The letter suggests allowing every person to pre-register for a shot using their date of birth, postal code and contact information. The individual would then receive an email and/or text message once they become eligible telling them how and where to book their vaccine.
“This will provide some surety and some order to a lot of people's lives at a time when the world seems very disordered,” Ward 12 Counc. and co-signer of the letter Josh Matlow said. “Many Ontarians are still waiting to figure out when are they going to be eligible, how are they going to be eligible, where do they go when they are—and that's leading to a lot of anxiety and we need to address that immediately.”
“The pre-registration would also allow the government to identify areas of a province, including within postal codes, where there is potential vaccine hesitancy and provide an opportunity for better and orderly management of supply and distribution.”
The system currently in place puts the onus on the individual to keep track of whether they are eligible and where they have to go to book an appointment. There are multiple ways in which a person could be eligible—age, health condition, place of residence and in some cases employment—and each one requires a different booking system.
When asked about the confusion on Tuesday at a news conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford shifted the blame onto Ontario residents, saying that millions of people who have already received one dose of the vaccine “didn’t find it confusing.”
“Folks, it’s very, very simple,” he said.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told CP24 on Wednesday that it was important to “give people opportunities to do the most convenient pathway for them,” whether that is booking through the province or going to a pop-up clinic in their neighbourhood.
“Yes, there are times when you either have to make a phone call or you can go online, but the fact that we were able to put 113,000 vaccines in people’s arms yesterday, an all-time high, suggests that people understand how important it is to get that vaccine and are working through the systems depending on where they live.”
Jones indicated that the government is not looking at streamlining or changing the process for booking a COVID-19 appointment any time soon.
“I think that we will continue on the pathway of offering different opportunities, whether that is through a pharmacy, whether that is through a mass immunization clinic, whether it is through more types of partnerships.”
Matlow, however, said that the different messaging and formats are causing more confusion than clarity.
“There’s a lot of different ways, lots of different messages … that people are hearing across the province and what we are asking the province to do is just provide a really easy, simple way through their phone and online systems for all Ontarians now to be able to pre-resigister for their turn to get the vaccine.”