More than 1,000 people showed up at the Vancouver Convention Center on Thursday without a vaccine appointment, adding to huge lines waiting many hours for their booster.
Those who arrived for a scheduled appointment were sent to the back of a long line that stretched from the east building of the convention center to the west building outside, then continued to meander back and forth inside.
The staff told them their appointment would be honored, but only on a first-come, first-served basis.
Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed on Thursday that about 5,000 people were shot at that location alone, but said one in four respondents would not be there.
“It made for a bit of a challenge for us,” Dix said Friday.
“I apologize to people who queued for a few hours at the convention center, but I also thank them for their perseverance, for getting through and for getting their booster dose.”
The government has previously made it clear that while clinics still allow drop-ins for first and second doses, appointments are needed for boosters. Children between the ages of five and 11 who receive a smaller dose of vaccine designed specifically for them also need an appointment.
“There are no third dose drop-ins,” Dix said. “That makes the system work better for everyone.”
Convention center staff also indicated that this week’s winter storm, which created dangerous conditions on several roads and bridges, caused many people to miss Thursday morning appointments, adding to the backlog during the day.
However, Dix said the province is continuing to increase vaccination capacity and there are “hundreds of thousands” of outstanding appointments. The minister said one of his constituents could make an appointment for Saturday to Thursday.
“We have a lot of appointments that are becoming available and will become available,” he said.
Vancouver Coastal Health, which operates the convention center’s vaccination clinic, apologized Thursday evening for the long queues, but offered no explanation.
“We always have some hiccups during the first few days of a new clinic, and we have never vaccinated so many people on Day 1 (3,600 people) and Day 2 (5,000 people),” the health authority said in a statement.
There have been other problems in the province with redundant or missing appointment invitations.
Delta resident James Berrell and his wife were eligible for their booster shots on Jan. 1, but were not invited to make an appointment. His wife called Immunize BC and was able to make appointments by phone.
“After I got the booster…I got an invitation to go get my booster,” Berrell said.
CTV News has heard similar stories of people who did not receive invitations, but booked phone appointments through Immunize BC, then received invitations after they received their shot.
Richmond resident Traci Corr died seven months since her second dose before receiving the invitation to book her booster appointment. She received the shot on January 5, but has since received three more invitations to meet up.
“I don’t know how long these invitations to book my booster will keep coming to me, I’ve had all the boosters I can take at this point,” Corr said.
On Jan. 6, the county said 529,156 booster appointment booking invitations were sent “where no appointment has been booked yet,” but it’s hard to say how many of those invitations are redundant.
To date, 88.3 percent of eligible British Columbians aged five and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 83 percent have received two. About 23 percent of residents ages 12 and older have also received a booster dose.