The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 1:00 am

Vaccine sign-up 'cumbersome'

Website, hotline often give contradictory information


David Kohloff is 70 and wanted to register to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as he was eligible. 

That was Wednesday. But it took multiple attempts between Wednesday and Sunday night until the Fort Wayne retiree finally able to get an appointment, he said Monday.

And when Kohloff found an open slot, it was mostly through persistence and luck, he said. 

“It is cumbersome,” he said of using the state's vaccination scheduling website. “It's also confusing.”

As for the state's 211 phone service – Kohloff said he waited on hold multiple times, including one time for almost 30 minutes. 

The website and hotline are designed to assist Hoosiers in making appointments to be vaccinated against a disease that has sickened 592,709 Hoosiers and led to the confirmed deaths of 8,296 as of Monday.

Using the website, however, means navigating a multistep process that at times provides inconsistent information – and often has as the only scheduling option weeks away.

Early in accessing the website, it tells a user only three locations are available to get vaccinated in Allen County – the Allen County Health Department's site at Memorial Coliseum, Lutheran Hospital and Parkview's Mirro Center. 

But later on, the website lists six sites, including two Neighborhood Health Clinics in Fort Wayne and Dupont Hospital. But if a user selects Dupont Hospital, the website says there are no appointments available. And the selection of Lutheran Hospital would not allow a search for an open date.

Joy Lohse, a Lutheran spokeswoman, said in an email that more than 2,700 people signed up for shots at Lutheran-affiliated sites, with the number determined by how many doses were being released by the state.

“Our vaccine sites at Lutheran Hospital, Dupont Hospital and Kosciusko Community Hospital will remain open to provide the booster doses, but will not be taking further appointments,” as multiple sites around the community are opening to provide this service, she said.

As for the other Allen County sites, as of Monday afternoon, the first Parkview Mirro appointment was not until Feb. 10. The first Coliseum time was not until 5:50 p.m. Feb. 4.

“Our site is booked up through the end of January,” said Megan Hubartt, county health department spokeswoman. “We do encourage folks to check online if they can each day in the event someone has canceled.”

The situation in other counties is similar.

Kosciusko Community Hospital's appointment button does not work at all; the county's health department website doesn't have an appointment available until Feb. 17. Adams County and Wabash County's health departments' appointments are all booked. Adams Memorial Hospital doesn't have an appointment open until Feb. 12.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana Department of Health, said at last week's COVID-19 update hosted by Gov. Eric Holcomb that it's better to try to register or call in the evening, as the highest volumes have been seen in the morning. 

The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It does not have an auto-callback feature for those in line, said Kohloff, the local man trying to book an appointment.

“The Indiana vaccination registration line could have used readily available technology to allow me the option of hanging up while holding my place in line – where the phone system will give me a call back when it's my turn,” he said.

Kohloff said he was able Sunday night to get an appointment for Thursday at one of two Neighborhood Health clinics. He believes that was because the site was listed as open only shortly before he logged in.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” he added.

Hubartt stressed all vaccination sites in the state are open to anyone eligible for a shot by their age or work status as a health care provider or first responder. She said Allen County Aging and In-Home Services is available to assist those who need help going online.

Officials from the Indiana Department of Health could not be reached Monday for comment on 211 wait times and website glitches.

The state health department Monday reported 2,548 additional Hoosiers had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Thirty additional state residents were reported as confirmed to have died from the virus. Indiana also has 371 probable COVID-19 deaths for which no positive test is available.

Allen County on Monday reported an additional 116 residents had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 32,079 confirmed cases.

No additional deaths were reported to add to the 540 deaths of county residents.

The state reports more than 302,609 Hoosiers have received one dose of vaccine, including 17,165 of those in Allen County. Available vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna require two doses spaced about a month apart to provide full protection.  

New cases

Adams: 13

Allen: 116

DeKalb: 12

Huntington: 15 (1 death)

Kosciusko: 16

LaGrange: 7

Noble: 16

Steuben: 25 (2 deaths)

Wabash: 9

Wells: 7

Whitley: 14

Sources: Indiana State Department of Health, Allen County Department of Health 

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