After a rocky start, Wake County’s COVID-19 vaccination waitlist portal is open

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County’s new COVID-19 vaccine waitlist portal is now open after a rocky start on Tuesday.

The county opened up its waitlist to those 65 years and older along with health care workers on Tuesday morning.

After an hour and a half of trying, Cheryl Wilson-Green signed up for the Wake County COVID-19 vaccine list.

“Yes girl, I finally got through,” said Wilson-Green.

The 70-year-old was trying to sign up through the hotline and online – with the website finally letting her through.

“It means a lot, I considered it, I had been considering it for a awhile because I wasn’t sure,” she said.

Many people heard the busy tone for several hours or couldn’t load the website for hours after they opened at 8:30 a.m.

The phone line stayed busy every time CBS 17 called until around 3 p.m.

The county said neither the website or phone line could handle the number of people trying to get in, so they expanded the capacity.

“We are adding additional phone line capacity and additional staffing on the phones. We want those people to be able to call, but the most efficient way is to be able to go to our website,” said Johnna Sharpe, chief operating officer for Wake County

“With those 30+ thousand people that signed up today, it’s going to be weeks before we are able to get through those people. So we really want people to be patient understand right now and understand that right now the demand far outweighs the supply.”

In the first three hours, 8,892 people signed up — 88 percent of them being people 65 and older.

“The sheer number of people is a challenge when you look at it just from a numbers game,” said Dr. Jason Whittes, Wake County Human Services pharmacy director, on Friday.

More than 180,000 people in Wake County are eligible to sign up for the vaccine right now.

County officials asked everyone not to rush to sign up first since they’re vaccinating people most at-risk first, rather than first-come, first-serve.

CBS 17 asked why the county didn’t split them into groups to sign up for the waitlist.

A spokesperson said they followed the state guidance to open up to all healthcare workers and 65 and older.

They’re asking people to stay patient, as they work to give everyone their spot in line.

“I was happy today when I found out I could finally get on,” said Wilson-Green.

The county says about 10 people showed up without appointments to get vaccines and did manage to get them.

When asked how that happened, Sharpe replied, “We’re not real sure.”  

According to the county, there were some people scheduled for appointments to test the process.

“We did have some cancellations and our staff, trying to do the right thing and not waste vaccines allowed people to come in,” added Sharpe.

She said that won’t happen again. From now on no shots will be given to people without an appointment.

“It isn’t fair. It shouldn’t have happened,” she acknowledged. “We apologize that those few people were able to make it in, but our staff  they wanted to do what was right and not turn the people away. Tomorrow we’re putting in a goal if you don’t have a spot we’re not even going to let you get out of your car.”

After having 30,000 people register Tuesday, Wake County plans to vaccinate about 2,300 people this week.

That includes many from the first eligible group of frontline workers.

Health officials said they’re asking the state for more doses to vaccinate this second group, and are partnering with neighboring hospitals to send people to them if they have more doses available.

“It’s all-hands-on-deck and we’re all in this together to get everybody vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Whittes on Friday.

Both the hotline and website are 24/7.

When the county is able, they’ll contact you to make an appointment, which could take several months to go through everyone with the current rate at which Wake County is receiving vaccines.

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