Wake County’s COVID-19 vaccine waitlist opens — but website, phone lines crash

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County residents ages 65 and older and healthcare workers who are interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine can join the waiting list that opened Tuesday morning.

Unfortunately for those who wanted to sign up, the website and phone line were down for several hours following the opening of the waitlist at 8:30 a.m.

Those visiting the site received the message: “The service is unavailable.”

Stacy Beard, spokeswoman for Wake County, said their systems are “temporarily overwhelmed.”

“In Wake County, Groups 1&2 have an estimated 180,000+ people and thousands of them calling all at once in our first hour are causing some to not be able to get in right away,” Beard told CBS 17.

She is asking for the public’s patience and said the website and phone line are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Beard said more than 3,000 people successfully complete vaccine requests online or one the phone by by 9:51 a.m. despite the issues.

By 10:15, at least 4,250 people completed requests.

By 11:30 a.m., 8,892 people had successfully completed their request for a vaccine.

Click here for Wake County’s COVID-19 vaccination site

To provide the best possible customer service, Wake County Public Health officials said they are using a new system to help match the demand for shots with supply of the vaccine.

“We don’t want our seniors standing out in the cold, waiting for hours to get vaccinated against this dangerous virus,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Calabria. “This new system will enable them to schedule an appointment when it’s their turn, so they’ll know exactly when and where to get their shot.”

“We don’t want our seniors standing out in the cold, waiting for hours to get vaccinated against this dangerous virus,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Calabria on Jan. 15. “This new system will enable them to schedule an appointment when it’s their turn, so they’ll know exactly when and where to get their shot.”

The website and phone line were both working after several hours. Wake County officials insisted the site and the phone line were never “down” but only “overwhelmed.”

How the Process Works
Beginning Tuesday, residents in Groups 1 and 2 will have two ways to tell Wake County Public Health that they’re interested in getting vaccinated – a special phone line and an online tool.

“We know that not everyone has access to a computer, especially right now,” said Wake County Pharmacy Director Dr. Jason Wittes. “That’s why we’re providing multiple ways for residents to connect with us and get in line for the vaccine.”

How the Process Works: Phone Line
Wake County Public Health is working with a company that will answer calls to our new vaccination phone line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The phone number – which went live at 8:30 a.m. – is 919-250-1515.

When people call the line, a customer serve representative will ask them a series of questions, including:

  • Are you 65 years old or older?
  • Are you a healthcare worker?
  • Do you have an established primary care provider?
  • What is your name, email address and phone number?

Once the representative enters their responses into our system, the callers will be placed on the waiting list for the vaccine, based on their eligibility. As soon as Wake County Public Health receives enough doses, these people will receive a notification via phone, email or text. The message will ask them to schedule a vaccination appointment.

How the Process Works: Online Tool
Wake County Public Health also took the initiative to build its own online tool to help people join the waiting list for the vaccine. Starting Jan. 19 at 8:30 a.m., they can visit it via wakegov.com/vaccine.

Once on the site, visitors will answer the same questions as noted above. When they click “submit,” they will automatically be placed on the waiting list for the vaccine. When supply allows, they will be notified via email, phone or text that it’s their turn to receive the vaccine. They will then make an appointment online or over the phone to get the shot at a convenient date and time.

“This is not a first come, first served process,” said Dr. Wittes. “We determine the order of appointments based on risk and need, 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.”

How the Process Works: After the Shot
After coming to their appointment and getting vaccinated, Wake County Public Health will ask them to remain on site for 20-30 minutes to watch for any serious reactions. This is a normal safety precaution for other vaccinations.

Those who receive a shot will also get a vaccination card to show they got the first dose and make an appointment for their second dose – 21 days later for Pfizer and 28 days later for Moderna. Wake County Public Health will then send a notification 19 days after the first dose as a reminder of their second dose appointment.

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