Alberta COVID-19 vaccination booking system overwhelmed on 1st day seniors 75 and older become eligible

Alberta Health Services’ phone lines are jammed and the government website has crashed on the first day that Albertans born in 1946 or earlier can book COVID-19 vaccinations.

An additional 230,000 seniors aged 75 and older are now eligible for the vaccine, along with all those in Phase 1A who are still receiving theirs, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Alberta Health Services said Wednesday morning that it is experiencing “very high volumes” and that if users are having trouble accessing the website, to try again soon. 

Shortly after 9 a.m., AHS said on Twitter that 2,500 people have been booked for an appointment in the first hour. 

Phones jammed, website crashed

Multiple people who called Health Link at 811 reported not being able to get through on the phone lines at all or being disconnected after making it part way through the booking process.  

Others reported similar experiences with the Alberta Health Services online booking tool, with the site either being down entirely or crashing as they were mid-way through booking an appointment.

Angie Hung, who works in IT, said she was trying to help both of her eligible parents book appointments and was having no success.

“There was one time I got in to about the first six questions, and then when I finally answered that last question, the website froze,” she said. 

“So that was more uncertainty, because do I keep it open in case it does eventually reload? I’m not entirely sure. So I will keep on trying.” 

Hung said she’s not surprised about the website having issues and compared it to trying to score tickets to a coveted rock concert. 

Officials urge patience

Hinshaw urged people to be patient on Wednesday.

Dr. Noel Gibney, co-chair of the pandemic response committee of the Edmonton Zone medical staff association, said the website crashing was to be expected based on the experience of other jurisdictions. 

“In the early hours of the open time, the systems have often crashed and so I would basically ask people to give it some time,” he said. “I’m sure that later today it will be open.”

More to come.

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