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Ontario's vaccine booking system launches today for those aged 80 and up

Ford urges those who don't yet qualify for the vaccine to keep off the website so that it doesn't crash

TORONTO — Ontario's hotly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine booking system launches at 8 a.m. today for those aged 80 and up. 

Qualifying residents can visit the online portal or call a hotline to book their appointment. 

But Premier Doug Ford is urging those who don't yet qualify for a shot to keep off the website so that it doesn't crash. 

Some of Ontario's 34 public health units have already established their own systems for booking vaccination appointments, but the provincial portal will either enhance or replace those setups in many areas. 

In addition to allowing vaccine-seekers to book their shots, the portal also provides instructions on how to schedule appointments based on protocols in place in each specific health unit.

The province says people who are eligible to get vaccinated can book online, while those wishing to schedule by phone can call 1-888-999-6488. 

But even as the vaccination drive ramps up, some regions of the province are still dealing with a troubling number of COVID-19 cases. 

Sarnia-Lambton is moving into the grey-lockdown stage of the province's colour-coded pandemic response framework. 

Lambton Public Health says the lockdown is a "declaration of emergency" after weekly case numbers rose sharply among residents under age 50.

The province also said it will move the Northwestern Health unit into the second-strictest "red" category of the pandemic response plan.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, meanwhile, will move from the least restrictive "green" classification into the "yellow" category.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press