Lack of vaccine appointments frustrates newly eligible 44+ age group
REGINA -- Saskatchewan expanded vaccine appointment eligibility to anyone 44 years old and over on Thursday, but low vaccine supply in the province’s two largest cities forced many people to look elsewhere.
Deanna Ogle logged on early Thursday morning to take a stab at booking her COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
The 45-year-old found that there were no appointments available for her in Regina and she instead had to book in Weyburn.
"It’s frustrating to see that this our only strategy [to end the pandemic] and that’s not even enough to make a difference in the community where I live," Ogle told CTV News on Thursday.
"I’m worried about people I care about, I’m worried about the workers when I go to a store and so I was hoping getting vaccinated would be me doing my part."
Ogle said she will have to use paid sick leave from her job to travel to Weyburn to get her shot, but she’s concerned some people may not have that option or be able to drive to another community to get their shot.
"This leaves so many workers in Regina out of luck," she said.
The experience was the same for Colin Hall and his wife when they attempted to book their first shot on Thursday. After attempting in Regina and then some surrounding communities, the couple eventually booked in Weyburn.
Hall said being able to book in another city when travel is being advised against is frustrating.
"It does feel a little bit backwards to say you cannot leave the city, but you cannot get a vaccination in that city," Hall said.
BOOKING SYSTEM NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: TECH EXPERT
Like thousands of people around the province his age, Saskatoon’s Aaron Genest attempted to book his vaccine appointment on Thursday morning, but he came away discouraged with the setup for booking appointments.
"I ended up in a loop for about half an hour trying to find an available appointment and during the process found a bunch of features that would make it very difficult for people to use," Genest said.
Genest has a Ph.D in computer science with a background in human computer interaction, which is training in how people use computers.
He said he’s sympathetic to the challenge that was presented those involved in setting up the province’s vaccine booking website.
"Unfortunately this site has errors that are obvious right off the bat, the list of vaccination sites include many, many sites with no vaccination appointments, so you need to go through one by one from a geographical standpoint to find one that has appointments available," he said.
Genest said the appointments recommended by the system also seemed to be unavailable by the time he selected it.
"It feels like you’re in a race with thousands of other people to be able to get the same exact appointment," he said.
Genest compared the situation to booking concert tickets or movie tickets, which have systems capable of accommodating large volumes of people booking simultaneously.
Genest said he understands vaccine shots are limited and the government is working to get as many appointments booked as quickly as possible, but he worries the system may led to some people giving up.
"It was frustrating, it’s obviously worrying that you’re not going to get an appointment quickly," he said. "It’s difficult for people to get through this system and we’re putting a filter in place where only a certain kind of person is going to easily do this and that’s really unfortunate."
VACCINE DEMAND OUTPACING SUPPLY
During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, the Government said the lack of available appointments comes down to a low supply of vaccines in Regina, Saskatoon and some other communities.
"It’s a good thing that we have people wanting to get these vaccines, whether it’s through a drive-thru, an appointment based or a walk-in clinic, the demand has been very high and it is a challenge," Everett Hindley, Minister for Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, said.
Vaccines are allocated based on how many residents of each community are eligible for the shot.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said the allocation can be adjusted if supply is higher than demand in certain communities.
"We’re monitoring it on a four-day window now instead of booking two to three weeks in advance as we get new vaccine," SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said.
The SHA expects more vaccine appointments to be available in Regina and Saskatoon next Wednesday.