VICTORIA -- British Columbia’s health minister is urging patience after health officials received more than 1.7 million calls to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments just hours after the phone lines opened Monday.

The province's vaccine call centres opened at 7 a.m. to book appointments for residents aged 90 and older, and Indigenous people 65 and over.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are only about 47,000 British Columbians who are 90 and over, and about 35,000 Indigenous people who are 65 and over. Many of those people, he added, have already been vaccinated in care homes or in their communities.

“As of about 9:40 a.m. this morning, we had registered about 1.7 million calls,” Dix said Monday. “We appreciate the enthusiasm, but if you’re not eligible to call in today, please don’t call in.”

Dix stressed that vaccine appointments will be open all week and everyone who is eligible for the vaccine will be able to get one. Friends and family members are allowed to book appointments for eligible residents, but Dix asked that only one person call per eligible resident.

“It’s an enormous response,” Dix said. “But if you’re not in those categories, please don’t call us today.”

The health minister responded to reports of jammed phone lines Monday morning, saying, “if that were to continue, obviously no phone system would respond to that.”

The health minister said an online platform will soon be available to allow British Columbians to book their vaccine appointments without waiting on the phone.

Dix said he will have updated details of the numbers of callers and appointments booked at the 3 p.m. COVID-19 news conference Monday.

A full list of Vancouver Island-region vaccine clinic locations is available here.