Seniors find big disconnect scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments across metro

ATLANTA — Despite the state and counties opening bigger distribution centers for the COVID-19 vaccine, there’s still a frustrating disconnect out there for seniors trying to get the vaccine into their arms.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke with several people on Wednesday who said they were having a hard time trying to book an appointment.

Health officials always knew there will be a limited supply of the vaccine, and they said the challenges we see in Georgia are challenges observed across the country.

Experts said we need a larger response, and Georgia seniors said they need answers.

Martha Boyle said getting vaccinated is the key to safely holding her family again.

“I haven’t seen my children since Christmas of 2019,” Boyle said.

But first, she has to get an appointment in Cobb County, where she lives.

“The Cobb link — I push that, and all it says something different all the time. But most often, it says server down,” Boyle said.

Now, the website tells people to try again every Friday after 5 p.m. for a chance at an appointment the following week. Appointments across the metro are filling up for the week.

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Henry County is closing its call center on Thursday.

State officials are asking for patience, but Georgia seniors are asking for timelines.

“So where do we come in? Do we have to wait until maybe April if we’re lucky? Maybe the end of the summer, or maybe the beginning of 2022?” asked Nancy Farmer, who lives in Forsyth County.

Some who have been able to get an appointment this week told Johnson it took persistence and luck.

“I dialed 850 times before I could get through to talk to someone to get this appointment,” one man getting the vaccine said.

Gov. Brian Kemp said supply constraints mean the state can only vaccinate 80,000 people a week.

Georgia has used 30% of the 940,000 doses that have been allocated for the state.

Kemp’s office stated the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will be integral to the state’s distribution plan going forward.

“Some of it is the supply and demand issue,” said Dr. Ted Ross, the director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia.

He told Johnson that one of the reasons Georgia’s vaccination rate is 49 out of 50 is a strained health system.

“There’s only so many individuals who can give somebody vaccines in a day. And so we need more sites, the to be more around the state, we need more people to do it,” Ross said.

Health experts are calling for more federal cooperation that will lead to more vaccination sites and more staff.

“As the vaccine doses increase by the manufacturers, we just don’t want them backing up in freezers because we just don’t have enough people to administer them,” Ross said.

Local health departments said there are ways the public can help too.

In DeKalb County, they said appointment no-shows have slowed things down.

“So they’ll book an appointment in DeKalb, they’ll book an appointment in Fulton, and then they’ll book an appointment in Gwinnett. And whoever books them first, that’s the one they go to,” said DeKalb County’s public health director, Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford.

For the thousands of Georgia seniors eligible for the vaccine but unable to get through, they said they’re losing confidence every day.

“I’m just telling you, it was just, to me, I’m just very disappointed in the rollout,” Boyle said.

Right now, Moderna and Pfizer are the big players, but Johnson and Johnson stated early trials of its vaccine are showing great results, and it is looking to apply for approval soon.

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