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The pace of bookings picked up enough that Adrian Dix said those 85 and older can begin calling to book appointments starting Thursday.

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Katie DeRosa Iris Hicks, a 94-year-old from Richmond, finally got a vaccine appointment on Wednesday after two days of fruitless attempts. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG Article content

After two days of backlogged call lines for seniors trying to book vaccines, B.C.’s health minister said the province caught up enough to allow anyone 85 or older to begin calling to book their immunization Thursday at noon.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday evening that anyone born in 1936 or earlier can book four days ahead of schedule thanks to increased call staff at the five health authorities.

“This will allow people to get their appointments sooner and reflects the fact that for the most part, substantially, seniors over 90 have already booked their appointments,” Dix said. He estimated there’s about 75,000 eligible people between 85 and 89 who have not yet been immunized.

A total of 39,163people across B.C. booked appointments Wednesday out of approximately 53,000 eligible B.C. residents 90 and older and Indigenous elders 65 and older. In Vancouver Coastal Health, a total of 7,699 people made bookings since Monday. In Fraser Health, 16,487 people have booked appointments over the three days. Island Health and Interior Health each booked around 6,000 people and Northern Health booked 2,860 people so far this week.

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Dr. Penny Ballem, head of the province’s immunization rollout and chair of Vancouver Coastal Health, said in a statement Wednesday that health authorities “are well on track to get everyone who is eligible booked this week and we can assure British Columbians that no one is going to miss out.”

Iris Hicks, a 94-year-old Richmond woman was ready to give up after two fruitless days trying to book a vaccine appointment. She told her daughter she was “past her sell-by date anyways,” which had Lesley Hicks worried that her mother was having second thoughts about being vaccinated.

“She really acted like it didn’t matter to her,” Lesley Hicks said.

However, a bump in Telus call centre staffing on Wednesday seemed to make a difference, as Lesley Hicks booked an appointment for her mother after only 10 minutes on hold.

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The Ministry of Health has so far refused to release the government contract with Telus or provide details on how much taxpayer dollars were paid to the company.

During question period Wednesday, the B.C. Liberals pressed the government to release the contract and provide details on who “signed off on the botched plan.” Liberal MLA Mike de Jong repeatedly asked: “What is the premier hiding? Will he release the contract, and if not, why not?”

Dix and Horgan dodged those questions, pointing to an uptick in appointments booked Wednesday as proof the phone system is back to full steam. Dix encouraged people to call and book their appointments.

“What Telus did and Vancouver Coastal Health did was respond to a very bad day and you can see the difference,” Dix said. “We are sorry that people were delayed on Monday, but progress has been made.” Telus said on Wednesday it tripled its initial staffing commitment to prevent further delays.

kderosa@postmedia.com

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