THORNBURY, ONT. -- A sense of relief settled over the staff and residents at Errinrung Retirement Community in Thornbury as 39 people rolled up their sleeves for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.

"It provides more protection for our residents in the future if, heaven forbid, we go into another COVID-19 outbreak," said the facility's executive director, Leanne Haynes.

Grey Bruce Public Health has focused second dose efforts on long-term care and retirement homes, Indigenous adults, first responders, and high-priority health-care workers.

The health unit said primary health-care providers would reach out to their patients over 80 years of age.

Patrick Herrmann said his 86-year-old mother will soon receive her dose. "She was contacted by her family doctor about the vaccine. She got her appointment this week," he said.

Three mass immunization sites are set up and tested, but before the appointments for large groups begin, the health unit is testing the province's new booking portal.

The site is a "public-facing extension" of the COVaxON system the province has been using since the start of the vaccine rollout, a source told CP24, and will also serve to keep track of inoculation data.

The province selected six public health units to begin a 'soft launch' of the COVID-19 vaccination booking system, among them Grey Bruce.

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce medical officer of health, said the province selected the region because of its readiness and experience testing other software platforms.

Dr. Arra noted how critical it is that a system is in place when large quantities of the vaccine arrive.

"I have no doubt in my mind more vaccines are coming in the imminent future by April. Our main challenge will be how fast we can put these vaccines in arms, and that's where the provincial software will be key to address that challenge," he explained.

The health unit asks residents not to contact it for appointments, adding that "no one will be left out."

Public health hopes to have the provincial booking system online later this month.

With files from CP24