Premier Doug Ford said he was told the launch of Ontario’s vaccine portal was “going relatively well” despite numerous reports from frustrated Ontarians who say they waited hours to book an appointment online only to come up empty handed.
“So far this morning 45,000 people were able to figure it out,” Ford told reporters at a news conference on Monday afternoon after being asked about the complaints.
The province’s booking portal went live at 8 a.m., allowing select priority groups, including people born in 1941 or earlier, to book an appointment for vaccination.
For those who don’t have access to a computer, the province also opened a call centre where more than 2,200 operators are available to book appointments.
But numerous people told CP24 that after waiting in the queue online for upwards of two hours and submitting all of the required information, they received an error message that read the “form had been tampered with.”
It is unclear why the error message is popping up and the Ministry of Health has not yet acknowledged the issue.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon several hours after the site was launched, Premier Ford indicated that it was the first he was hearing of the problem.
“I know I'm not a computer expert so I shouldn't be speaking about this but one gentleman was complaining adamantly, and he was putting in the wrong what is it URL number or something. He was putting something in wrong,” Ford said.
“If that doesn't work online, then call the 1-888 number and see how that works... that's what I’d do.”
Long wait times and other issues have also been reported by people phoning in to the province’s call centre.
Some say after spending hours on hold, they were directed to their individual public health units to book an appointment instead.
When pressed about the issues many have encountered with the booking system, Ford said he planned to “call the IT guys.”
“They just sent me a message that it's going relatively well. You're telling me differently. I'm going to jump on this,” Ford said at the news conference.
While several other provinces have already launched their online vaccine appointment websites, including Quebec and Alberta, Ontario’s vaccine task force announced last month that it wanted to wait until March 15. The delay, the province said, was so the system could be tested further to ensure it would not crash.
“I was just praying all night this thing wasn't going to crash because every other area in Canada, when you have a couple million people going on at once, it usually crashes,” Ford said Monday.
“We’ll iron it out immediately. I can promise you that. They’ll be all over it. Matter of fact, I would bet as they are listening to this, they are jumping on this. So we’ll get down to the bottom of it.”
Many of Ontario’s local public health units and hospitals have already launched their own booking portals to begin vaccinating the oldest members of the community. Several regions, including the Peel, Durham, and Halton, have opted not to use the province’s appointment portal in favour of their own sites.
Just under 1.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in the province to date.
Premier Doug Ford has said 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.
On Sunday, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, said he hopes to move on to the next age group 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.”