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Alberta seniors trying to book COVID-19 vaccines left frustrated by website glitches

Last Updated Feb 24, 2021 at 6:41 pm MDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) – It was a frustrating morning for some older Albertans who tried, unsuccessfully, for hours to book a COVID-19 vaccination for themselves or their loved ones.

Albertans born in 1946 or earlier were eligible to book vaccination appointments beginning Wednesday. But several reported problems accessing the booking website and the provincial 811 Health Link line.

“I’m a bit frustrated,” said 86-year-old Ted Sullivan. “I feel like I have a touch of insanity after doing it… when you keep doing something you know won’t work.

“I do not understand why, when they picked the date far in advance for our category to register for vaccines, they did not power up with a system that could handle it. They surely have the know-how to do that in Alberta Health.”

Sullivan began trying to book an appointment as soon as the site was operational – 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. He says he tried between 300 and 400 times to get through – on multiple devices – without any luck.

“I’ve been trying to log on to the official website,” he said. “I get to a certain point where I enter my building code, and nothing happens. It accepts the number, but when I press enter, that’s it.

“I hope that tomorrow things will change.”

While the COVID-19 vaccine could be a life saver for Sullivan, it may also allow him to meet his one-year-old great-granddaughter for the very first time.

“We haven’t seen her at all,” said Sullivan. “We’ve seen pictures of her.”

READ MORE: Vaccine bookings filling up despite delays on AHS website

Alberta Health Services said more than 25,000 Albertans succeeded in booking their shots on the first day reservations became available in the province.

But like Sullivan, several other Albertans did not have the same luck.

Paula Kirman says her father began calling the provincial 811 Health Link line as of 8 a.m.

“I’ve had an easier time buying concert tickets than I’ve had trying to get through to make my father an appointment to be vaccinated,” said Kirman.

“He has just been getting a constant busy signal.”

Terry Moschopedis tried booking an appointment for his mother. He made the first attempt at 8:01 am.

“It would just keep on crashing and crashing,” said Moschopedis. “And when we were able to get past the first screen, we went for a walk and it (was) still going on. Three hours later.”

Moschopedis, who has a background in computer software, says if he was in charge of the launch, he would have been fired.

“There is no way I would’ve been able to do this to a client,” he said. “This is really bad. They didn’t do a proper protocol to make sure that this thing was going to work properly.”

Alberta’s Minister of Health Tyler Shandro acknowledged the technological issues at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“To everyone who was disappointed this morning, I’m with you,” said Shandro. “The system can now handle 5,000 bookings per hour. AHS have added capacity, they’ve added staff.

“These shots are going to take a few weeks. We won’t get to everybody on the first week, but we’ll get to all of you.”

Another slight snag in the system: Edmonton police and Calgary police both reminded the public to call 811 and not 911 to book their COVID-19 vaccines. EPS says it received about 100 calls Wednesday morning from people trying to book their appointment.

–with files from The Canadian Press