April 16th, 2021

Online vaccination appointments cause frustration

By Lethbridge Herald on February 24, 2021.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at the first Mi'kmaw COVID-19 clinic at Millbrook First Nation in Truro, N.S. on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
Some technical snafus in trying to book an online vaccination through the Alberta Health Services website has drawn frustration from one local man.
Gerry Kohn, 77, said he was on the phone beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning and as of that afternoon was still unable to book an appointment and when he tried to call the Health Link 811 number he got a busy signal.
Roughly 230,000 people born in 1946 or earlier are eligible to be immunized at 58 sites across the province.
Appointments were being offered through an online portal or through the 811 Health Link phone line. Alberta Health Services said as of early Wednesday afternoon 20,000 appointments had been booked.
That being said, Kohn was not one of them.
“I have been trying without any success. I got the form filled out once and then the message server was down,” he said.
Kohn got as far in the booking process as entering his postal code before being referred to the 811 Health Link.
He feels AHS weren’t prepared for the call load to book appointments.
“To me, I think the bureaucrats in the government made a huge error in judgement about the load that was going to be put on and did not prepare or add enough servers or electronics to handle the potential bookings. They knew what it was going to be. Apparently, they have 460,000 doses to complete the seniors eligible Phase 1 B. Obviously, they didn’t prepare their own system to handle the load. You can’t get through on 811. So what they’ve done is jammed their own system. So, if you had a question before you call 811, you can’t get through.
“High-priced bureaucrats have totally bungled the operation by not having the software and servers in place to handle it.”
Speaking on social media Wednesday afternoon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro expressed disappointment “that the launch of the vaccine booking tool today did not go more smoothly.
“At launch, more than 150,000 users attempted to visit the site, causing a number of technical issues.”
To fix the problems, Shandro said additional network capacity had been added to the 10 servers already in place. As well, additional staff had been added to Health Link as well as 170 phone lines available to help Albertans make appointments in addition to working directly with Telus to make sure the intermittent busy signal some subscribers were dealing with is no longer an problem.
As of Wednesday morning, AHS had posted a statement on their website in regards to the immunization booking tool’s slow performance.
“As anticipated, we are experiencing very high volumes with the AHS COVID-19 immunization booking tool. The tool remains live. If you are having trouble accessing the site, please try again shortly. Thank you for your patience.”
Vaccines are also being made available at 102 pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary starting the week of March 8 or earlier, depending on supply, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association CEO Margaret Wing told the Canadian Press. She said they will be limited to 200 doses per week, based on current supply projections.
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