Seniors 70 and older can now register to receive the coronavirus vaccine through the state’s website.
Although the main page of the state’s vaccine dashboard, ourshot.in.gov, still said early Wednesday morning that registration is limited to those 80 and over, people who clicked on the appointment link found that those 70 and up were able to register.
After being contacted by IndyStar, the state sent out a statement just before 10 a.m. that registration officially was open for people at least 70.
But many people struggled Wednesday morning with a glitchy website and a 211 call center overwhelmed with people reaching out for help.
People reported long waits to make an appointment. Many also received error messages once they thought they finally snagged a time to get their dose.
Patients struggle to register
Heather Edmands set up what she called “COVID central hotline command.” As she worked on her laptop, she monitored the state’s website on another computer, called 211 in the hope she would get through there, and talked about her efforts on her cellphone.
On her first call to 211 she waited 54 minutes, listening to hold music. At minute 55, the music stopped and she thought she might next hear a call center employee on the line. Instead, there was a dial tone.
“I issued some choice words and called them back,” said Edmands, who was trying to make an appointment for her mother.
She had no better luck on the website. She would pick a time that looked open, click on it and receive an error message.
“It doesn’t matter what time you pick. It doesn’t matter what day you pick. It gives you this error message,” she said.
At noon, Edmands said she would keep trying for another two hours and then see where she was at that point.
Shortly after 2 p.m. sudden — and surprising — success.
“It’s as if the system suddenly snapped awake and stopped issuing the error message,” she said.
After more than three hours of trying to schedule an appointment for her 78-year-old mother, Melissa Leonard finally secured an appointment for her online in Hamilton County at the end of the month.
This was after her mother got through to someone at the 211 call center who was also unable to help her schedule an appointment and could only apologize for the glitch.
Leonard, who kept navigating “vicious circle of pop-up boxes,” resolved not to give up until she had an appointment in hand.
“It was so frustrating, I wanted her to get in so badly,” she said. “It’s not really anybody’s fault, other than, were they not ready for this, that’s just me being a manager in my real life and thinking who could have prevented this.”
When she called her mother to tell her she had an appointment, her mother almost started crying, she was so relieved. Leonard’s father, who is 83, will be vaccinated tomorrow.
150 vaccination sites in Indiana
State health officials did not respond immediately Wednesday afternoon to questions about the website. Last Friday after the first group of seniors experienced similar problems, health officials advised them to be patient and said there was a system in place to address problems.
Nearly 150 vaccination sites exist around the state. All but one of the 92 county health departments offers a vaccination clinic.
Last Friday the state started allowing seniors over age 80 to register for vaccine appointments. As of earlier this week, nearly 86,000 people in that age group had scheduled appointments, state health officials said.
More info: How to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Indiana
In October, the state issued a draft plan that prioritized people for vaccination based on myriad factors.
Last Wednesday state officials said they had scrapped that plan and would now focus on vaccinating people by age as coronavirus risk increases as one grows older. Every state can draw up its own plan.
The state started vaccinating healthcare workers in mid-December, along with long term care facility residents and staff. In early January, first responders became eligible.
State officials said they would invite seniors over 80 to register first and then open it up to those 70 and older and those 60 and older in stages. At the time they did not have a specific timeline for expanding registration but said it would depend on how great interest was among those eligible.
As of Tuesday at noon, more than 204,000 people in Indiana had received their first dose of vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard, which is updated daily. More than 31,000 had received both doses of vaccine.
To schedule a vaccine visit the state website at ourshot.in.gov or call 211.