First day of vaccine registration hailed as a success, yet caused confusion and anxiety for some seniors

  • Staff Sgt. Marcialiced Arrendondo of the 157th Mission Support Group answers a call from the 211 help line Jan. 12 at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke. Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson

  • Kathy Yurek, 53, of Cornish, N.H., extends her arm to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Matt Prugger, a medic in the New Hampshire National Guard at the Heater Road armory on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Lebanon, N.H. Yurek is a hairstylist and has direct contact with clients. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Tech. Sgt. Alan Roma, an engineer with the 157th Civil Engineer Squadron, assists a caller on the 211 help line Jan. 12 at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke. Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson

Monitor staff
Published: 1/22/2021 5:10:57 PM

Lisa Sims-McLean lives right around the corner from where COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured in Portsmouth.

Her home is just a few miles from Lonza Biologics, a pharmaceutical company that has pledged to produce 100 million Moderna vaccines within a year.

Yet, the vaccine has never seemed further away.

Since early January, the 62-year-old has faithfully called her doctor’s office every couple of days to get more information about the vaccine process. Sims-McLean has preexisting conditions, including diabetes, that place her in phase 1b of the State’s vaccine rollout plan along with residents over the age of 65.

At first, her provider told her they were just too swamped with COVID-19 to take her call – hospitalizations had steadily been on the rise in New Hampshire. When she finally got through, they recommended she call the state’s COVID hotline, 2-1-1. They said the health center simply didn’t have enough information about vaccines.

On Friday morning, when the vaccine registration officially opened to large swaths of the public, Sims-McLean pulled up the registration website and clicked through a couple of questions about her condition.

She should, the website determined, call her doctor to get an appointment referral. She called her doctor again. No one picked up. She called 2-1-1. They told her she should call her doctor.

By the end of the first day of sign ups, she still wasn’t sure if she was able to get in line for the vaccine.

Overall, the state called the effort a “roaring success” after 147,621 Granite Staters, many of whom may not be technologically fluent, signed up to register on the first day. The figure represented about half of the people eligible to receive a vaccine during phase 1b. Several states that have attempted similar feats have floundered.

“Today’s roll-out exceeded expectations and the teams across state government deserve immense credit for their role in making today such a great success,” Governor Chris Sununu said in a statement.

For the last year, Sims-McLean has been quarantining in an RV on the Seacoast. She said she fills her time how most people do – shouting at the TV and getting into arguments on Facebook – and she’s ready to be done with it.

“I’ve been sheltering at home for a year now,” she said. “I’m ready for the shot. I have new babies in the family that only know me through Facebook.”

Sims-McLean doesn’t blame her doctor’s office for her struggles. She doesn’t even blame the state.

“They’re just as confused as the rest of us,” she said.

Everyone who successfully signed up on Friday will have to wait three to five days for an email that will lead them through the next stage of appointment selection.

The first callers to the 2-1-1 hotline Friday morning were initially met with a 25 minute wait time, which dropped to less than 5 minutes by noon, state officials said.

The process proved to be anxiety-inducing at times.

Shipp Webb, a 72-year-old from Belknap County, logged onto the state website around 7:45, about 25 minutes before registration was set to open.

Just around 8:00, Webb noticed the page was starting to slow down. When he reloaded it, his screen flashed an error message. In a panic—appointment slots are partly allocated on a first come, first serve basis – he reloaded the page over and over again.

He called the 2-1-1 hotline, waited on hold, and was disconnected.

The source of Webb’s anxiety, it turns out, was a six minute lag updating the Department of Health’s website, leaving many staring for painstaking minutes at “PHASE 1B: Scheduling Began on 1/22/2021 at 8:00AM” in thick red type. Webb successfully registered By 8:43.

It’s unclear how long it will take to work through the entire group, as the state is receiving about 17,000 doses a week. Some lucky residents will receive their shots as soon as Tuesday. Others may have to wait until March.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2020 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy