A nurse prepares to vaccinate healthcare workers at a COVID-19 drive-thru immunization site in Coquitlam in this image supplied to the media by Fraser Health on March 8, 2021. (Fraser Health)

A nurse prepares to vaccinate healthcare workers at a COVID-19 drive-thru immunization site in Coquitlam in this image supplied to the media by Fraser Health on March 8, 2021. (Fraser Health)

OPINION: Helping a 97-year-old man get his COVID vaccination appointment

Call centre inundated with 1.7 million calls while there are just 50,000 folks over 90 in B.C.

Mr. Beagley will get his jab.

That may sound like the title of a British farce, but it’s just the reality for a lovely 97-year-old Chilliwack man who is scheduled to receive a COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday.

(This is a follow-up to a column I wrote about his situation, one that appeared online two weeks ago.)

READ MORE: OPINION: Daughter of 97-year-old Chilliwack man is asking when her father will get vaccinated

You see, Edmund A. Beagley’s daughter emailed me from her home in Dunstable in England, asking when her nonagenarian father would be able to get the vaccine.

“He had his flu jab in November at Save-On-Foods. Where will he need to register?”

I realized upon hearing the question, as a journalist and someone who is paying attention, I didn’t know the answer but I thought I should.

There was no concrete information from Fraser Health of the Ministry of Health about the vaccine rollout plan for those over 80 years old. As of Feb. 24, while Beagley’s daughter said he was feeling forgotten, living alone as he does, Dr. Bonnie Henry promised he was not: “We have not forgotten you. These plans are in place and we will be reaching out to you in the coming days and weeks.”

Of course, that wasn’t her message directly to him, but to all those older folks left waiting and wondering.

A lot can change in two weeks. And this week it started, with expansion of Phase 2 of the COVID-19 immunization plan, involving folks born in 1931 or earlier, and Indigenous elders born in 1956 or earlier.

Since I started communicating with Beagley’s daughter Mary, I felt obliged to carry this through, to not just write about the situation as she was happy for me to do, but to find out when it would happen.

Finally, yes, the plan announced last week: March 8, those born in 1931 or earlier can start booking for appointments starting March 15; on March 15, seniors 85 or older can book appointments starting March 22; and on March 22, those 80 or over can book for appointments starting March 29.

But as Mr. Beagley is quite hard of hearing, and has no relatives in Chilliwack, I agreed to book the appointment for him. Ready with his date of birth, postal code and health number, my alarm went off at 6:59 a.m. this morning, and I started calling at 7 a.m.

So did everyone else.

While there are only 50,000 people aged over 90, at one point before noon it was reported the call centres had received 1.7 million calls. Health Minister Adrian Dix asked people who shouldn’t be calling to stop.

However, there is another reason why they received so many calls. I myself tried 35 times before giving up, receiving either a busy signal, an endless silence, or a message to hang up and try again. Do the math: 50,000 times 35 is 1.75 million, so it honestly could have just been the 90-year-old cohort and those helping them who were clogging up the lines.

READ MORE: B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

(By Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix was blaming Telus for the phone problems)

In Fraser Health, however, it was pointed out to me by someone on Twitter that appointments can be made online.

This is not available in Vancouver Coastal Health. After getting booted off the website four times – success. Not only was I able to book Mr. Beagley an appointment, there were appointments available as early as Tuesday, not starting March 15 as originally announced.

It’s not surprising so many people called right as the booking times were made available … people are anxious. I mean, I did it. But by 8:45 a.m. we had him all booked in, and while many have made complaints about the phone system, there really is no rush now as the 90-year-olds have four more days to book.

We’ve waited this long. The vaccines are in place with more on the way. Healthcare practitioners in other fields are taking the 20-hour course needed to administer vaccines. Larger clinics are being set up.

It’s been a year since this pandemic began, but vaccinations are happening. Sure, communication could have been better, and yes it should have been rolled out faster, but needles are going in arms starting this week. By summer, maybe, just maybe, we will have a bit of our lives back.

After booking his appointment, I called Mr. Beagley to let him know. It was a challenging conversation only because of his hearing loss, but he got it all down, repeated it back and he was quite thankful.

“Do you need me to give you a ride to the appointment?” I asked, assuming he would need one.

“No, no, I’ve got wheels,” the 97-year-old replied, something his daughter confirmed.

Good for him.

Mr. Beagley has the wheels to roll. And at long last, he can roll up his sleeves and get his jab and carry on.

RELATED: 22 COVID vaccine clinics to be opened for seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ in Fraser Health


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This garbage bin behind a strip mall in Skaha Lake Road was set alight on Friday night at 11 p.m. The foam from firefighters can be seen on the ground. (Facebook)
Dumpster fire comes too close to Penticton seniors’ complex

One resident worries Penticton might have a fire bug

The Town of Oliver is lobbying for funds to fix part of an irrigation system damaged by a rock slide last year that would have a huge impact on farmers and the entire region. File photo
Province to finish funding for Oliver irrigation system repairs

The irrigation system was damaged after a rockslide in 2016

Theo's now delivering to Summerland
Penticton Greek restaurant now delivering to Summerland

Theo’s restaurant is the first to deliver food to Summerland in their ‘Squidmobile’

The Vees are on their fourth straight win as they head into game five of Pod Season on Sunday. (Cheri Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees keep winning streak alive with 5-3 win

The Vees are now 4-0 to start the BCHL pod season

Penticton Christian School. (Facebook)
COVID-19 exposure at Penticton independent school

The exposures are the latest in a quickly growing list in the Interior

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read