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COVID vaccine booking for those 80+ now divided up by birth month (update)

Earlier this week, demand was so high the site had to be taken offline
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The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, at a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, March 5

NOTE: This information has been updated. As of Saturday evening, the province's website now says appointments can be booked both by phone and online as of 7 a.m. Monday.

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The province is putting new measures in place it hopes will avoid the issues many people ran into earlier this week when they tried to book their appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The appointments are for 10 community based clinics being held this month to get Nova Scotians aged 80 or older immunized.

Reservations opened last Monday for the first clinics which will start running this Monday at three locations, including the IWK.

However, demand was so high the site had to be taken offline.

"Monday was not a good day for anyone who tried to book an appointment," said the province's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang at a Friday briefing. "I recognize it was a frustrating and negative experience for many."

"We know we need to do better and we will."

Booking for new appointments will resume this Monday (March 8) for the clinics that start running on March 15, including at the IWK and the Halifax Forum Multi-Purpose Centre.

According to the province's website, people can start booking appointments by phone (1-833-797-7772)  or online as of 7 a.m. 

However this time around, in order to reduce demand on the system, only those born in the first third of the year can book an appointment.

"To ensure that people don't spend lengthy periods trying to book online, we are dividing up the over 80 age group into three smaller groups based on month of birth," Strang explained.

"On Monday, those born between January and April will be able to book their appointments. Booking appointments for the two other groups with later birth months will open up later this month," he added. "When we're able to open those up depends on how those appointments go for the first group."

If you aren't at least 80 years old and you weren't born between January 1 and April 30, the system will not schedule you an appointment.

"If you decide to call to book an appointment, please know that there are a limited number of lines available. You'll be placed on hold if the lines are full and you'll have to wait," Strang said. "So we ask people, whether online or calling, be patient. You will get through."

"Everyone who wants to get a vaccine will get one ... we have lots of people to get through. This is a month-long program, so have a little patience and we'll get to you in time."

He added health officials are confident in their vaccination plan, but it won't be perfect.

"This is a big, complex effort, one of the biggest efforts we've ever done in health care in this province," said Strang. "So we won't always get it right."

"A vaccination effort of this magnitude has never been done before, but I can tell you that each time something goes not as we expected, we will learn and improve."

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