EDMONTON -- Minutes after the COVID-19 vaccine booking portal for Albertans 75 and older opened Wednesday morning, it crashed.

"As anticipated, we are experiencing very high volumes with the AHS COVID-19 immunization booking tool," Alberta Health Services said in a statement shortly after 8 a.m.

"If you had anticipated that, why did you not create the infrastructure to handle that?" asked Katy Ingraham. It took her several hours to book an appointment for her 75-year-old father.

Some who made it into the portal later received an error while making an appointment. 

"It was 'this site can't be reached.' It was 'this site took too long to respond.' Then it completely crashed multiple times," said Lynn Burrough, who was trying to book an appointment for her 86-year-old mother.

"Three hours of complete frustration."

The agency encouraged Albertans to try to access the website again after a few minutes, as it was remained live.

"This is a good problem to have," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro. "That so many people are interested in booking these vaccinations. So that's fantastic."

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Shandro said he was disappointed seniors trying to book appointments were having issues, but that AHS has made adjustments to the website to handle the increased capacity.

"The system can now handle about 5,000 bookings per hour. AHS has added network capacity, they've added staff to health link, they are working directly with TELUS to make sure that any intermittent busy signal," said Shandro.

"We won't get to everybody right on the very first day, but we will get to all of you."

About 25,000 people had made appointments by 2:30 p.m. and Minister Shandro said that the first shots were administered Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone born in 1946 or earlier is eligible in Phase 1B of Alberta's immunization program, as are First Nations and Métis who are age 65 or older.


The province's top doctor said the previous day AHS was increasing Health Link staffing in anticipation of the high volumes of traffic.

AHS vaccine Phase 1 B crash portal booking

"For many folks, I know it may feel like you've been waiting a very long time for the vaccine and you are keen to get a first dose, as soon as possible. I'm asking everyone booking appointments to please be patient, especially in the first few days," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during a Tuesday news conference.

"For those who try to book after all initial appointments have been filled up: Remember that new appointments will be made available as more vaccine arrives. With the doses we are anticipating receiving, all Alberta seniors who want vaccine will be able to get their first dose before the end of March. It may just take a little bit of time to get your appointment as availability depends on the timing of the supply we receive in the province."


The Elder Advocates of Alberta Society told CTV News Edmonton it had been hearing a lot of enthusiasm from seniors about becoming eligible for the vaccine on Wednesday -- as well as questions. 

"They're just wondering how they can register. A lot of people -- older people especially -- I think are very fearful of the COVID and so are very hopeful that this will keep them safe," society chairperson Ruth Adria said. 

She anticipated the age group would have some trouble accessing the online portal. Those eligible could also call 811 to book. 

Adria said the organization had been working to educate and ease concerns about serious issues resulting from the shot. The pandemic, she noted, has been particularly hard for seniors who are some of the most vulnerable to serious effects of COVID-19. 

"It's been devastating," she said. "I remind people that older people have come through the Great Depression, through wars. Some of them have even been refugees and you know now, at least we have enough to eat and have a warm place to sleep. I encourage them that way, to say, really, we've all come through difficult times. And that makes them think."

Out of nearly 181,000 shots given, Alberta has counted 102 adverse events. Some 73,000 people -- including frontline workers and residents of long-term care and supportive living homes -- have been fully immunized with two doses. 


Those calling in to make an appointment were reminded to call 811 only. 

Edmonton Police Service had received nearly 100 calls to 911 from citizens looking to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment by 11 a.m.