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Alberta’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booking System Is Overwhelmed And People Are Calling 911

Emergency services fielded hundreds of calls Wednesday.

Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is off to a rocky start.

Alberta Health Services opened appointment bookings for all residents born 1946 or earlier Wednesday. Within minutes of online applications opening, however, reports of jammed phone lines and website crashes quickly circulated on social media.

According to both Calgary and Edmonton police, frustrated Albertans are even trying to call 911 to book a vaccine appointment.

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary on Dec. 15, 2020.
Leah Hennel/Alberta Health Services
A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary on Dec. 15, 2020.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Edmonton police urged residents not to call the emergency line, which is for, well, emergencies.

“The Edmonton Police Services Communications branch has received close to 100 calls from citizens this morning attempting to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments,” police said. “We would like to remind Edmontonians to only dial 811 for vaccine bookings and NOT 911.”

Calgary police reported a similar influx of vaccine inquiries into their emergency line.

An additional 230,000 Albertans living in the community are now eligible to book their vaccine appointment for the coming months as of Wednesday.

The initial rollout was riddled with problems as residents rushed to book their appointments as soon as bookings opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Many took to social media to document their frustrations.

By 12 p.m. MST Wednesday, over 12,000 Albertans had booked their appointments while thousands still continued to get through. During a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw had a warning for Albertans.

“I anticipate that people will need to be patient and keep trying to get into the system whether it’s by phone or by internet,” Hinshaw said. “We’ve done as much as we can to try to prepare. There will always be some challenges as we roll out an immunization program of this size.”

Both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services continued to preach patience on social media Wednesday as complaints rolled in. According to Alberta Health Services, there should be enough supply to vaccinate the entire age group by April, barring any unforeseen vaccine shortages.

Alberta Health Services is also urging Albertans not to call hospitals or doctors directly to book appointments.

Eligible Albertans can book online or by call 811 — again, NOT 911.

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