MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- As COVID-19 vaccinations were opened up to those aged 75-79, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says the high volume of calls and website traffic caused 'challenges.'

It was announced Friday that appointments would become available for seniors over the age of 75 across Ontario starting Monday.

The MLHU tweeted that issues with the system have been addressed and the system will be monitored, and they, "appreciate your patience and understanding."

But it was later Monday afternoon that MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie tweeted that in fact, "The site was attacked by bots this morning. Problem is now fixed."

The system was reportedly either down or extremely slow for about an hour before it was back up and running, according to Southwestern Public Health, which shares the same site.

While Elgin and Oxford counties share the same booking system as London and Middlesex, which continued to operate after the glitches, the system in Huron-Perth was overwhelmed to the point it had to be temporarily shut down.

Huron Perth Public Health closed their booking system and phone lines by mid-morning Monday due to "the overwhelming response we have received." They are expected to reopen on Tuesday.

Residents who turn 75 this year or are older in London-Middlesex, St. Thomas, Elgin and Oxford counties, can book an appointment at www.covidvaccinelm.ca or calling 226-289-3560, though online bookings are preferred.

In the Huron Perth Public Health region, when bookings reopen, residents can book by visiting www.hpph.ca/vaccine or calling 1-833-753-2098.

While some local public health regions are using their own booking system, others like Lambton County are using the provincial system.

You can find out if you're eligible and how to book depending on your location here.

Some residents travelling for vaccine

Not everyone is waiting to be eligible for the vaccine in their home regions, with some travelling to locations like Essex County, where three pharmacies in Kingsville are among those offering the Astra Zeneca vaccine to anyone over age 60.

Brenda Zadorsky and her husband are both under 75, but both have now been vaccinated after booking an appointment over the weekend.

She says, "...each place assured me that we were not jumping the queue, that these were being offered after the community had been served."

Tim Brady is a pharmacist in Essex County, he says, "We've had people from London, from Sarnia and from Toronto, the pilot was set for anybody in Ontario, so if you have a health card in Ontario, I’m not going to deny you your shots."

He adds that there was concern they would have leftover doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which are set to expire at the end of March.

"Is it better to have the doses go to waste or is it better to necessarily use them?...Essex County got 30,000 doses, before we even did it, we only have about 28,000 people in that age group, so even if everybody got it and we had 100 per cent compliance we’re still 2,000 shots short."

Mackie says there is no issue with people travelling to leave their shots as long as they are doing it safely.

"As long as people are getting vaccinated I’m happy. The provincial tracking system means that we will know where people have gotten their shots before and the automatic second appointments that are generated when people get their first shot will likely be at that same clinic."

He added that people can likely change where they get their second shot, but may need to call in to make that happen.

Zadorsky says she's just relieved it's done, "We have 12 grandchildren, and my mother is 90 plus as is my mother-in-law, so we felt that when we were afforded this opportunity that we should avail ourselves to it."