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People struggling to get COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 7:01 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As West Virginia continues to allow more people to get their COVID-19 vaccine, the struggles for people to sign up are only getting worse. Some people have been forced to wait on hold for hours to end up not getting an appointment.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department opened registration on Thursday afternoon for the 600 doses set to be given out at a clinic on Saturday. Every spot was taken within a matter of minutes, and many people were not able to even get through to someone at scheduling center.

“It was just frustrating on my part, on I know my neighbors’ part, because you could not get through,” Linda Cook said. “A lot of times, what was most frustrating is you didn’t even get a ring, you just got silence and then a hang up on your phone.”

Cook tried to call the health department more than 150 times on Wednesday and Thursday trying to get an appointment, but she was never able to talk with someone. She is in her 70s and planned to spend Friday trying to call for an appointment, but learned there were no spots left.

“The mask doesn’t bother me,” Cook said. “I will wear the mask as long and as often as they want, I’ll social distance as much as they want, but it’s just frustrating, as it is for most people, not to be able to have that freedom to go and do the things they are used to.”

The health department understands this frustration and is happy so many people want to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, the demand is much higher than the supply of shots they have been given, leading to the problems.

“We want everyone to realize that as soon as vaccine becomes more readily available to us, we will continue to hold vaccine clinics as much as we possible can,” Monica Mason said. “We want to get the vaccine out to the entire Kanawha County community as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Mason said they want people to continue checking the health department’s website and Facebook page for when more doses will be available. They are not sure when they will be given more doses and how many they will get, preventing the department from creating a waiting list or other system to process people in advance.

“As soon as we are made aware, the call center is opened appropriately for the number of vaccine doses that we have,” Mason said. “The demand right now is very high, but we only have a limited amount of vaccine. The calls do come in very quickly and those vaccine appointments are taken, but we just encourage everyone to continue to try back, continue to try the social media as when vaccines were available. Call back and get an appointment.”

Gov. Jim Justice said West Virginia is leading the nation in vaccine distribution, with more than 90 percent of vaccines that have been delivered to the state given to someone. He is pushing for every dose to be given to show the federal government the state is able to handle more doses and needs them.

To help handle the backlog of calls, the state is considering activating additional call lines to handle the volume and look for people who need to be vaccinated, but will not create a waitlist like Ohio has formed.

“I know it is a logistical problem and they have to wait for the vaccines to come,” Cook said. “You just hope for the best and hope you get the shot as soon as possible.”

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