Health Team

Walgreens latest to experience problems with vaccination sign-ups

Posted February 8, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2021 10:25 p.m. EST

— Walgreens opened its online registration system Tuesday for people to sign up for coronavirus vaccination appointments, and like county health departments and other providers before them, the pharmacy chain immediately had problems.

The pharmacy chain will start providing vaccinations Friday at 313 of its locations across North Carolina as part of a new federal program to ramp up the nationwide vaccination push. Specific locations haven't been announced, but each of the pharmacies will get about 100 doses.

Only people currently eligible to be vaccinated in North Carolina – health care workers and those age 65 or older – can sign up.

"I live about a mile away from a Walgreens," 89-year-old Michael Rulison said. "That's pretty convenient."

But Rulison ran into trouble when he tried to sign up Tuesday.

"I tried to sign in and it said, 'We're sorry for the inconvenience, but this service is currently unavailable. Please try again later,'" he said. "Basically, it leads to dead ends as far as getting registered to do anything."

He said he then tried an online chat but found that all agents were busy.

"It's very frustrating for me," he said.

Walgreens issued a statement saying that the registration site had a temporary outage with so many people trying to make appointments.

Other reported that, when it worked, the site was pretty user-friendly. You make an account, sign up for an appointment based on your ZIP code and then print out a consent form.

People need to fill out the consent form and take it to the appointment, along with an ID, insurance card and the email confirming their appointment.

Rulison said he has registered with the Wake County Health Department, UNC Rex Health and the Duke University Health System over the past few weeks trying to get an appointment, so Tuesday wasn't the first time he experienced problems.

"It's discriminatory against people who can't take time off of work to do things on the computer or the cellphone, and some people don't have those – that kind of access," he said. "The phone lines generally lead to a robot, and they're not very satisfactory either."

The doses Walgreens will administer come from a special allotment under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and not out of the weekly shipments the state receives and divvies up among the 100 counties.

Under the program, Walgreens and CVS are vaccinating people in about two dozen states and jurisdictions chosen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help increase vaccine access in medically underserved areas and areas with a high social vulnerability score, which is the potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health.

Both pharmacy chains also have federal contracts to vaccinate residents and employees in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities nationwide.

“Walgreens was one of the first pharmacies to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations in December to long-term care facility staff and residents, and we look forward to leveraging our experience to support the federal government and CDC in expanding access to these vaccines,” Walgreens President John Standley said in a statement.

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