Phone line opens Friday for Durham residents seeking vaccines
Posted January 14, 2021 7:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2021 12:09 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — The Durham County Health Department will start vaccinating people 65 and older next Tuesday at Southern High School.
According to Mayor Steve Schewel, Durham has over 50,000 residents over the age of 65, so it will take time to schedule and distribute the vaccine.
At noon on Friday, health care workers and senior citizens can call 919-560-HELP (919-560-4357) to make an appointment. After that, calls will be accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Officials are expecting a high number of calls and ask people to be patient. The vaccines will be given out Jan. 19-22 from 3 to 8 p.m.
"We are excited to begin this next phase of vaccinations in order to help protect even more of our community," Durham County Health Director Rod Jenkins said in a statement. "However, we do expect a significant number of calls when the line is open, so we ask that callers remain patient as they try to schedule their appointments. It may be difficult to get through at first, but please keep trying. We will provide vaccines to all as soon as possible."
To avoid lines, Schewel said, the Durham County Health Department is working diligently with the Duke University Health System to make sure there are enough people to staff phone lines for people making appointments and to vaccinate people at Southern High.
"We’ve seen in other counties, and states especially, long lines and then not enough vaccine to meet the needs of the people in those lines. People waiting for hours [with] no vaccine at the end. That, we really don’t want," Schewel said.
The biggest challenge, the mayor said, is reaching the most vulnerable community.
"There are over 50,000 people in Durham that are over 65," he said. "Even if things move quickly, to get 50,000 people vaccinated in addition to all the health care workers, other critical frontline categories, it’s going to take time."
Although the logistics of the effort are still being ironed out, some Duke students said Thursday that they are thrilled to know the vaccination effort is speeding up locally.
"My parents are at high risk, and I want to make sure I don’t transmit it to them and make sure I don’t get it," Caroline Anderson said.
"I think it’s really exciting that that is coming to Durham, especially with all of us coming back this week from wherever we have been in the country," Jake Malone said. "I hope the city can get that taken care of pretty fast.”
Jenkins said the health department also will start offering Saturday appointments for vaccinations at its office.
"By expanding our hours to the weekend and opening an additional vaccination site, we expect to be able to vaccinate an additional thousand people per week," he said. "We will continue seeking additional opportunities for more vaccination sites moving forward."