By Rob FergusonQueen’s Park Bureau
Tue., Nov. 23, 2021timer2 min. read
updateArticle was updated 4 hrs ago
Parents seeking to book more than one child for a COVID-19 shot can use the provincial telephone hotline to get appointments together, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday amid concerns about difficulties with the online system.
Her advice came after the NDP revealed many parents could not get back-to-back appointments for their children through the province’s online portal as bookings for the Pfizer vaccine opened for those ages five to 11.
The snag has left busy moms and dads with appointments for their children at different times, on different days and in different places, New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) charged in the legislature’s daily question period, calling the problem a “design flaw.”
“This chaos could have been avoided,” Fife said. “Correct this.”
Elliott replied with a suggestion to use the provincial hotline at 1-833-943-3900.
“This is a problem that can be easily remedied by calling the line that one has always been able to call and making appointments for all two, three children, however many children you have,” she said.
“There are also parts of Ontario where some of the 34 public health units already have their own system that will allow for multiple vaccinations.”
About 87,500 appointments were booked by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Elliott’s press secretary said.
“The booking system is working well,” Alexandra Hilkene said. “This does not include public health units with their own booking systems or other channels using their own booking systems such as pharmacies.”
Fife said the limitation in the provincial online system should have been foreseen long ago and corrected after children ages 12 to 17 became eligible for shots.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Elliott’s answer was “completely irresponsible” and shows “a clear lack of competence, basic management competence from (Premier) Doug Ford and his team.”
In British Columbia, families had been instructed to register their children for shots in advance of the vaccine being approved for their use — something Ontario did not do — and to book a single appointment for all of their children.
One mother in the Greater Toronto Area took to Twitter to express her frustration with the situation.
“Used the York Region site and had to keep going back to the start for each of three littles,” said Diane Fassel. “How could they not have anticipated multiples?”
Others questioned why Elliott didn’t provide the advice on Monday, when she announced bookings could be made starting Tuesday.
“We should have made sure the booking system would accommodate families of all sizes,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner.
Elliott’s office said the province has almost 1.1 million pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough for every child aged five to 11 in the province.
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