Eligible vaccine seekers scramble for appointments

Eligible vaccine seekers scramble for appointments

reporter photo

Tech-savvy baby boomers faced crashed websites and clogged phone lines Monday when the state opened up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to about 650,000 people.

As the state’s vaccination program continues to expand, those over 55 who have become newly eligible may not be able to make appointments immediately due to limited supplies, said Gov. Ned Lamont. 

Teachers and child care workers are also included in the group eligible for inoculation, and state health providers have put an emphasis on vaccinating people in underserved communities.  

State and local officials have notified residents they will not be able to cover the age group due to a shortage in vaccines. In Meriden, the Department of Health and Human Services receives about 300 doses weekly. In Wallingford, the Health Department receives between 100 and 200 doses a week with a waitlist of 1,600 people that are over age 65. 

Special outreach for underserved populations began recently in anticipation of the vaccine reaching more people. Representatives of the Spanish Community of Wallingford want the Latino community to be well informed about COVID-19 risks and access to the vaccines.

“They don’t know what to believe, we’re hoping to calm their fears and educate them in order to make factual decisions so they can share the information with their friends,” said assistant Executive Director Lizandra Mejias-Salinas during a Q&A session with SCOW members and local officials. “Through education it can be done.”

‘Like the lottery’

People over age 55 took to social media Monday to vent their frustrations over scheduling vaccine appointments.

“I really feel it’s like the lottery,” Cate Caron-Nevin of Meriden said. “I registered my husband through VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) and finally got confirmation ...in a few hours. I go on there and there is absolutely nothing available in a 100-mile radius throughout the end of next month.”

But fortune smiled when Caron-Nevin read a post on social media about a clinic at Mount Hebron Baptist Church in Meriden scheduled for Saturday run by the city health department. She was able to book his first and second vaccines before it closed out a short time later.

“This was just pure luck and if I kept with the main sites posted everywhere, it could have been months before someone could actually get a date,” she stated. “I consider myself lucky for being able to get him scheduled period, never mind with a date for Saturday.” 

Call for patience

MyChartPlus run by Hartford HealthCare Network was inoperable for much of Monday. The VAMS portal run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was open but appointments were largely unavailable, or not available until May in some areas. Yale New Haven Healthcare was also closed for appointments.

Some night owls who logged in at 12:01 a.m. Monday reported success through VAMS, Yale New Haven Health Care and Griffin Hospital. Others found appointments at Walgreens. But both CVS and Walgreens reported no availability by late morning. 

“We know people are eager, but it will take time to get everyone scheduled,” Lamont posted on Twitter early Monday. “More appointments will be added each week.”

Hartford HealthCare also called for patience Monday.

“As of 6 a.m. this morning, those who are 55 plus, educators/school staff, and childcare providers can sign up for an appointment. As doses are delivered, more appointment time slots open to the public,” spokeswoman Tina Varona said in an email. “Eric Arlia, system director of pharmacy, says because of this, he encourages everyone to continue checking back and trying. If you do not see any openings the first time, check periodically.”

‘It was horrible’

Some people applied for vaccines on Saturday by stating they were over age 65, and received appointments on Wednesday. They are now eligible.

Jill Smith Dorozenski, who was vaccinated in mid-February, is helping others find available appointments. 

“It was horrible,” Smith Dorozenski said. “And I’m computer literate. I was having a nervous breakdown. I would have gone anywhere in the state.”

She ended up going to CVS in New Britain. Two weeks later, her VAMS confirmation arrived in her email.

“I would say check every couple of hours the different sites,” Smith Dorozenski said. “It’s really frustrating.” 

For more information on how to schedule an appointment go to Myrecordjournal.com/coronavirus.

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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