Vancouver Island seniors will soon be able to book a date to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Starting Monday, Island Health will begin scheduling appointments over the phone for seniors over the age of 90 and Indigenous people who are 65 and older.
Island Health’s vaccine call centre will open at 7 a.m. Monday, with agents scheduling appointments for eligible individuals for the week.
The number to call to book an appointment with Island Health is 1-833-348-4787.
“We want to give everyone a week to get registered and then into an appointment the week after that,” says Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s vice-president of pandemic planning.
Once seniors 90 and over have had a week to get registered and booked for an appointment, Island Health will open up the phone lines to younger seniors.
Starting March 15, individuals 85 and above will be eligible to call in and book an appointment for the week of March 22.
Then on March 22, individuals over the age of 80 can begin booking their shots and will receive appointment dates for the following week.
Individuals can book appointments for themselves, their spouse and family members. The province is also allowing friends to call and book an appointment for someone else.
Island Health is planning to administer first doses of vaccine to 44,000 people — seniors over 80 and Indigenous people over 65 — by April 12 at 19 clinics across Vancouver Island.
“Right now we have 25 times the people vaccinated in Island Health than people who have had COVID in Island Health and we’re only going to see that number skyrocket,” says Dr. Michael Benusic, physician lead of mass immunization operations for Island Health.
It’s a historically large vaccination effort being undertaken by Island Health and officials are urging people to be patient with the process and only call in when it is their turn to book an appointment.
“You will get an appointment,” says Schmid. “We are just asking people really hold to calling in only when it is the time for your age group.”
Over 50 Island Health call centre agents will be ready and waiting on Monday morning, according to Schmid, who says the phone lines will be capped at 100 people in the queue.
“When the cap is reached, you will get a recording that says to call back,” explains Schmid. “We will be working very closely though, with Telus, as we move through the day on Monday to determine what our volumes actually are.”
Schmid says they aren’t entirely sure what kind of call volume they will be receiving on Monday when the phone lines open, explaining that part of the reason is those over 80 are harder to reach than other segments of the population.
“This has been a bit of a hard population to nail down in terms of what we can expect from a volumes perspective,” she says.
“As soon as we see long wait times for people the team will be huddling on that and trying to rectify those situations. We also have internal staff that we are able to mobilize and support the call centre, should we see issues.”
Island Health has had issues with its COVID-19 testing call centre lines in the past and Schmid says there will likely be issues with the vaccine phone line as well.
“We know there will be problems, but we are hoping they will be short-lived problems that we will be able to get on top of quickly,” she says.
To book an appointment with Island Health, call 1-833-348-4787 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.