AstraZeneca doses on the way, as booking systems falter: Today in COVID-19 vaccine news

As COVID-19 vaccination efforts unfold worldwide, there will inevitably be moments of progress mixed with setbacks. The Star offers a daily look at the “one step forward, one step back,” nature of the road to vaccination.

One step forward …

AstraZeneca has landed. The third vaccine approved in Canada for use against COVID-19 will soon be doled out. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has notably not yet recommended the vaccine for people over the age of 65. That’s led to provinces plotting their own particular plans for its use.

While the provincial vaccination programs largely focus on giving doses to the oldest people first, the NACI position has offered a chance for some creativity in protecting younger people.

On Wednesday, Ontario announced that family doctors will be able to give doses of the vaccine to people between the ages of 60 and 64. A total of 194,500 doses are available, and there are more than one million Ontarians in this age category.

B.C., meanwhile, has promised to use its AstraZeneca doses for essential workers under the age of 65, and in areas where an outbreak is happening. The province will prioritize northern areas, which have fewer health care resources and recent transmission of the virus.

Alberta is offering AstraZeneca shots to 64-year-olds first, and will then offer remaining doses to those ages 50 to 63.

… and one step back

As the general public starts getting vaccinated, booking appointments have been a problem.

A number of hospitals and about one-third of Ontario’s 34 health units have booking systems in place as they vaccinate the 80-plus age group. But a provincewide booking system is not yet running. It is planned for Monday, and will include both online and phone bookings.

In B.C., the online system for booking vaccines has not launched either, but a provincewide phone booking system is being used, contracted to Telus. On the first day of vaccinations for the general public in the province, the booking system was quickly overwhelmed, with 1.7 million calls the first morning. The result was that only 369 bookings were made in the Vancouver Coastal Health Area, one of the largest health regions in the province.

Alberta and Quebec have booking systems that are provincewide, and Saskatchewan is launching one Thursday.

— Compiled by Alex McKeen, Toronto Star

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TORONTO STAR