Local News

Persistence, patience key to securing COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Posted January 18, 2021 2:22 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2021 6:28 p.m. EST

— Senior citizens trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine have waited outdoors, in cars and on the phone for hours over the past few weeks, but the process is getting easier as county health departments and other vaccine distribution sites refine their process.

While some events remain first-come, first-served and will see long lines, others, including those sponsored by Wake and Durham counties, are based on an appointment system. The wait is to get the appointment. After that, eligible people need only show up.

That process worked in Chapel Hill Monday, where 850 people secured an appointment in advance and got their first of two shots at the Friday Center.

Susan and Robert Reda tried three times before they got their appointment.

"On Thursday I tried via phone, and it was very difficult, and I got hung up on a couple of times," he said.

"Friday I went online and the first appointments I saw were in Rocky Mount, and I didn’t accept those. Then at 6 o’clock on Friday evening, all the appointments here showed up, so we were able to get these appointments, but they went very quickly."

Vaccine distribution sites are adding appointments as they get additional doses of the vaccine.

Sonya McKay of Cary booked her appointment online 10 days ago and got her shot Monday in Chapel Hill.

"For me it’s been a very easy process," she said. "There are simple questions, and you answer them, and it took you to the next screen, and boom it was over with."

She recommended that the less tech savvy get help rather than deal with phone line delays.

"Somebody told me they were on the phone for three hours to schedule an appointment for their husband to get a shot," McKay said.

"The main thing is just to remain patient," said Dr. Sachin Gupta of UNC Health. "We're working lockstep with our hospital partners, with the state, and certainly as availability and allocation increases, the number of appointments increase."

UNC Health has scheduled more than 10,000 vaccine appointments for this week.

Coronavirus vaccinations in NC

Wake County will begin scheduling appointments – over the phone and online – at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and those who have been through the process elsewhere counsel patience.

Wake County Pharmacy Director Dr. Jason Wittes pointed out that there are an estimated 200,000 people in the county eligible in Phase 1 and 2 – 50,000 health care workers and 133,000 seniors ages 65 and older. He expects about 2,300 of them to be able to get their first of two doses this week.

How it works in Wake County

Appointments will be assigned based on risk and need. Wittes said, "So people don’t have to worry about being the first person to call our phone line or visit our online tool at precisely 8:30 a.m. Tuesday."

Call to register: Wake County COVID-19 vaccination hotline

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 19, anyone can call the Wake County Public Health vaccination phone line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The phone number is 919-250-1515.

Callers will be asked about eligibility, whether they have a primary care physician and for their name, phone number and email address. They will then be added to the Wake County COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.

As the county gets doses, those on the waiting list will be notified via phone, email or text message, and they will then have the opportunity to schedule an appointment, either over the phone or online.

Register online: Wake County COVID-19 vaccination online portal

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 19, people can visit wakegov.com/vaccine to submit their personal information

Visitors will fill out information about vaccine eligibility, whether they have a primary care physician and provide some personal information, including name, phone number and email address. They will then be added to the Wake County COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.

As the county gets doses, those on the waiting list will be notified via phone, email or text message, and they will then have the opportunity to schedule an appointment, either over the phone or online.

Duke Raleigh, UNC Health, UNC Wakebrook and WakeMed Health and Hospitals are also administering vaccines in Wake County.

Each county is distributing the vaccine a little bit differently, and people can go to any vaccine site that is convenient.

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