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'Frustrated' father asks why families waited over an hour for kids' COVID-19 shots at Coquitlam clinic

Fraser Health said vaccinating younger children can take longer and asked parents to be patient; colouring books and snacks being offered to waiting youngsters
Child COVID vaccine
Children aged five to 11 are encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Dozens of families seeking COVID-19 shots for their five- to 11-year-old children were left waiting in their cars for over an hour at a Coquitlam vaccine clinic recently, raising concerns about overbooking and creating frustrations for some parents.

“It seemed like Fraser Health left their staff hanging. It was a little bit frustrating” said Dave, who asked that his last name not be published because he works in health care.

Dave said he booked an appointment last Monday for Friday, Dec. 3 at 4:25 p.m. at the drive-thru mass immunization clinic on Barnet Highway.

He arrived with his nine-year-old son only to see a long lineup of cars, which resulted in a wait of more than one hour before he was allowed to get out of his car and walk his son to one of the waiting tents.

“I got the appointment time I wanted. But when I showed up there were a million people there,” Dave said.

One car, presumably with a booked appointment, left the parking lot because the line was so long, he said.

Dave wasn’t the only person perplexed about the long wait.

Other parents were grumbling about the huge holdup and Dave said he was told by one staff person that a glitch in the booking system resulted in 100 vaccination appointments scheduled for a 30-minute block.

In a statement, Fraser Health said lineups can occur because the time to give younger children vaccines is "variable." However, staff have provided children with colouring books, snacks and chances to interact with firefighter "partners" to make them comfortable while they wait.

"We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to add more capacity and extra resources to some of our peak times and busier clinic locations to accommodate as many children as possible," a Fraser Health spokesperson explained to the Tri-City News.

And while no families have been turned away, there were waits this past weekend at the Coquitlam COVID-19 Testing and Immunization Centre, and some families were offered the opportunity to come back the next day for their appointment.

"A small number did choose that option and were fully accommodated the next morning," the spokesperson acknowledged.

Fortunately, Dave had anticipated a bit of a wait and brought along an iPad so his son could watch a program.

Other families with younger kids may not have been so lucky, and the wait, added to anxiety about getting a COVID-19 shot, may have made getting a jab shot a bad experience for some children.

Dave isn't the only person raising concerns about difficulties getting shots for children now that COVID-19 vaccines are ramping up for younger kids.

Earlier this week, an untold number of B.C. parents had to scramble to reschedule COVID-19 bookings for their children under 12 after a government mistake forced cancellations at pharmacies across the province. 

The error occurred as the B.C. government attempted to open up clinics in strategic locations so families and kids would have better access to vaccinations, said Ministry of Health spokesperson Thomas Hunt.

Hunt could not answer how many people had been affected by the cancelled bookings, but said the number of people under 12 booked into a pharmacy by mistake “is low.”

“We know parents are eager to get their kids vaccinated, but children under 12 who have accidentally been booked into pharmacies will have their appointments cancelled,” Hunt told Glacier Media in an email.

At a news conference Tuesday (Dec. 7), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry did not give an exact number of how many people had been affected.

"I think there was a small number [of cancellations] that I heard about," she said.

Currently, the only clinic with daily appointments in the Tri-Cities is at the drive-through location on Barnet Highway. 

However, some dates are being made available at the Douglas College Coquitlam campus for shots and Fraser Health is asking community groups or associations to host a vaccine clinic.

But Dave said the province, and Fraser Health, should be doing more to make it easy for parents to get shots for their younger children, and shouldn’t be making them wait in car lineups for over an hour.

“If you want kids vaccinated as quickly as possible given how serious Omicron is they should make it a little easier.”

He has booked a Dec. 18 appointment for his five-year-old daughter and is worried about another long wait.

"And she won't be so patient," he said.

So far, about 10 per cent of Tri-City kids aged five to 11 have had a COVID-19 shot.

"We encourage parents/guardians to come prepared for their COVID-19 child vaccination appointment and have items on hand that may assist their children pass the time," Fraser Health advises in making the process as smooth as possible.

"If a child or youth requires additional support or accommodations in getting their vaccine, please visit our youth outreach process page for more information, including how to request in-clinic appointment needs."

For more information, you can click here.

- with files from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News, and Stefan Labbé, Glacier Media

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