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

Machine gun on roof of Pitt Meadows municipal hall, circa 1929. (Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives/Special to The News)
LOOKING BACK: German machine gun mystery solved – at least part of it

Recently discovered documents uncovered how war trophies came to exist in Pitt Meadows

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Maple Ridge resident encourages people to stand up to anti-Asian racism when they see it

Local letter writer can’t understand why people act out against certain groups

Kat Wahamaa marched downtown Vancouver to mark the fifth anniversary of the opioid crisis in B.C. She lost her own son to a fentanyl overdose in 2016. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Mothers mark opioid anniversary with march in Vancouver

Former City of Maple Ridge artist-in-residence and Maple Ridge homeless advocate mourn loss of children

Ken Stewart will serve another term as president of the Alouette River Management Society. (THE NEWS-files)
ARMS takes aim at city subdivision, Hydro’s water licence in coming year

Ken Stewart back as president of Maple Ridge conservation group

A small memorial to Rich Goulet at Pitt Meadows Secondary honoured the late coach. (The News files)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows petition signer lobs gym naming question back into school board’s court

Thousands of people have signed a petition to name a gym after the late coach Rich Goulet

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read