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Seniors 85 and older now eligible to book COVID vaccinations in North Van, West Van

After a rocky start this week to the vaccine call centre rollout, Vancouver Coastal Health is speeding up the vaccination schedule.

After a rocky start to the vaccine call centre rollout this week, Vancouver Coastal Health is speeding up the vaccination schedule.

Phone lines are now open for anyone over 85 (or those born in 1936 or earlier) to book vaccines on the North Shore – four days earlier than expected.

Seniors over 85 became eligible to book their appointments at noon Thursday.

When phone lines first opened on Monday for those 90 and over, seniors faced lengthy waits and most couldn’t even get through as the system proved inadequate to deal with the approximately 1.7 million calls received. On the first day, only 369 seniors in the Vancouver Coastal Health region succeeded in making their appointments.

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Since then, however, the Telus call centre has beefed up its staffing and Vancouver Coastal Health has also added staff to take some of the calls, according to press statement from VCH.

That’s meant faster wait times for those calling in for appointments.

Laurie Vance and her sister were among those who persevered and got appointments for their parents in West Vancouver.

On Monday, Vance said her sister spent all day on the phone and didn’t manage to get through to the call centre. But on Tuesday, she was successful.

“I think you just have to be patient,” said Vance. “I can appreciate how overloaded they got.”

By Thursday, seniors were reporting significantly fewer problems getting through to call centres.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that almost 50,000 vaccine appointments had been booked province-wide since the system opened on Monday, including over 10,000 appointments on Thursday alone.

Of the appointments booked, almost 9,7000 appointments had been booked at clinics in Vancouver Coastal Health, which includes the North Shore.

Dix said as phone lines opened to those aged 85 and older on Thursday, seniors were booking those appointments “in significant numbers.”

Dix said across the province there are almost 75,000 people in the age group aged 85 and above. “We are hopeful that all of those people, or as many as possible, can phone and book appointments in the next few days,” he said.

Vance said getting an appointment for her mom and dad, both in their 90s, is a big deal for her family.

Although her parents still live independently in their own home, they’ve had to forgo many of their favourite activities over the past year, said Vance, including recreation and visits with family and friends. Her dad's underlying health condition has meant he's had to be especially careful, she said.

“It’s been really tough on both of them,” she said.

“I’ve already told my dad I want to book him for a date in three weeks.”

Vaccination clinics for seniors will be offered in the gym at the West Vancouver Community Centre and at the COVID-19 testing site on Lloyd Avenue in North Vancouver, formerly an ICBC inspection centre.

Currently, those 85 and older as well as Indigenous people 65 and older are eligible to call to book their shot on the North Shore. Seniors 80 and older who live on Bowen Island, in Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River are also eligible to book.

The number to phone is 1-877-587-5767.