Hamilton shuts down COVID vaccination hotline ahead of online booking tool expected next week – TheSpec.com

Hamilton has temporarily shuttered it’s vaccination registration hotline. It’s the latest news in the moving target that is the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

With a new vaccine approved last week and big changes to appointment booking coming next week, here’s a breakdown of the latest about inoculation.

How do I register?

As of Tuesday afternoon — and until next Monday, March 15 — you don’t.

The city temporarily suspended the registration hotline until next week in order to “streamline the booking process” and get those already registered booked for a shot. The province’s online booking system is expected to launch on March 15.

This essentially means the city’s head start on vaccinating those 85 and older in the community has been fully booked.

What if you are already registered and are waiting for a call back?

Hamilton public health will continue with call backs for those on the list — which is anyone over 85 years old as of this year who called to register before the hotline was shuttered or had visited a Hamilton hospital in the past six months — until March 14 at 4 p.m., at which point they will stop.

It’s not clear if those already in the hopper for an appointment will have to re-register if they don’t get a call back by March 14.

Who is eligible?

All health-care workers can register, but not all can receive vaccines right away. Information for those in the health-care sector is available online at Hamilton.ca/VaccineRegistration.

Before the hotline was closed, registration was open to those living in the community who turned 85 or older in 2021. It’s not clear if Hamilton will have the same benchmark when registration’s reopen on March 15 with the provincial booking tool. The province has suggested the online system will be open to those 80 or older.

Public health said earlier Tuesday that Indigenous community members aged 55 and older were also receiving vaccines. It is unclear if these individuals are still able to make appointments now that the hotline is closed.

Which vaccines are approved?

Health Canada has now approved four vaccines. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine joined the list as of March 5. The others are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Where are the vaccine clinics?

Hamilton has two fixed-site clinics and a mobile clinic, with more on the way. St. Joe’s West 5th clinic is administering vaccines to seniors 85 and older and members of the Indigenous community aged 55 and up.

The HHS clinic is vaccinating health-care workers and essential caregivers.

The mobile clinic began offering pop-up clinics from March 3 at Saltfleet Community Centre in Winona, the Municipal Service Centre in Binbrook, the Rotary Club of Ancaster A.M., Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre, and Harry Howell Arena in Waterdown. All clinics are by appointment only.

On Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer of health, said two more “large-scale” clinics are expected to open at FirstOntario Centre and Rosedale Arena. She said details would be released “in the coming days.”

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What changes on March 15?

The province expects to launch an online booking tool for vaccines on March 15, which means residents will no longer need to call to register.

Hamilton public health will also reopen its vaccination hotline for those who can’t register online. As of 8:30 a.m. on March 15, the hotline at 905-974-9848, option 7, will be open again.

Until then, public health is asking that residents refrain from calling the number to ask questions about vaccine appointments.

“Please note, we ask that residents do not choose another option on the hotline, the other lines are reserved for those looking to book testing appointments and need urgent access,” read a statement from public health on Tuesday.

When can other age groups get their vaccine?

The provincial schedule says those 80 and up can expect to be eligible for vaccination by the third week of March. Seniors 75 years and older will become eligible April 15. Those 70 and up are set to be eligible as of May 1, with residents 65 years and up to be eligible as of June 1. Residents 60 years and older can expect to be eligible as of July 1. These dates may change based on vaccine supply and other factors.

I’m an essential worker not in the health-care sector. When am I eligible?

School staff, police officers, farm workers and other front-line workers are in the province’s second phase from April to July 2021.

Once I get my vaccine, can I meet others without social distancing?

Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health said Monday that Ontario is “nowhere near” being able to allow people to gather without precautions. She responded to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations that those fully vaccinated can meet indoors with others who are fully vaccinated without any precautions.

The U.S. has “a much higher percentage of the population vaccinated,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe. “The bottom line is everyone needs to keep doing the basic precautions we have talked about for now.”

Maria Iqbal’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories focused on aging issues. Reach her via email:
miqbal@thespec.com.