The view from the Ottawa Public Health vaccine booking line

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ashley Wing has been working the Ottawa Public Health phone lines, connecting people with information about all things related to COVID-19. These days, she’s helping eligible residents in 21 high-priority neighbourhoods book their vaccine appointments. Before her shift, she took a few minutes to share her experiences on the phone lines.

A young blonde woman wearing a black shirt sits at a wooden desk, smiling at the camera.


Ashley, what has it been like to take these calls?

It’s been a whirlwind! Before the pandemic, I was answering calls on the general Public Health phone line. I was redeployed to focus on calls related to COVID-19 basically from the beginning, but now I’m on the phone line that’s dedicated to booking appointments, and training other clerks for the same role. It feels amazing to be involved in the process of getting vaccine appointments booked for the people who need them most.

How have the call volumes been? What have the conversations with callers been like?

It has been different every day. When it was first announced that people 80 and over could make appointments, our call volumes were really high. At one point we had hundreds of people in the queue. But while they were waiting, callers would hear updates telling them their position in the queue, which people really seemed to appreciate.

At first, we had lots of people calling who weren’t eligible, but less now. When I talk to the people in their 60s or 70s for example, the conversations give me chills sometimes! They’re finally getting a vaccine that could potentially save their life, and will definitely help them regain some normalcy. These people are so grateful, and to hear the joy and excitement in their voices, it’s just so wonderful to be a part of that.

How do you handle the calls from people who aren’t eligible?

After a full year of COVID-19 restrictions, people of all ages and circumstances are eager to get vaccinated, and I get that. I just try to explain that we’re working in a sequence that’s set out by the province. A lot of people just want to make sure they won’t miss their turn. And I think that’s what’s important for people to know. Once you become eligible – whether it’s based on age, health status, profession, etc – you remain eligible. The window of opportunity won’t close on you. For some people, yes, their vaccine appointment may be a few months away. I know people are getting tired of having to be patient. It’s totally understandable. But for more and more people, their first appointment is more like weeks away, rather than months. We are making progress, and I love that I get to play a role in that!

*****

Stay in the know

To make finding vaccine information a little easier, the City of Ottawa has created the COVID-19 Vaccine Update e-subscription. Sign up today and you’ll receive the latest updates on vaccine distribution in the city, delivered to your inbox. You’ll also get a roundup of COVID-19 and vaccine-related information every Friday.

All residents, even those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, are encouraged to register for the e-subscription. It will keep you informed on:

  • who is eligible for the vaccine
  • where clinics are held
  • how and when you can schedule an appointment
  • the latest vaccine information

To sign up for the e-subscription, make sure you choose the first item: COVID-19 Vaccine Update.

Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca for vaccine health and safety information.

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