Vaccine rollout causes scheduling delays for Health Departments across Middle Georgia

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT/AP) — A Macon man says he faced challenges trying to schedule his COVID-19 vaccine appointment over the phone.

George Graf said, “Just busy, busy, busy. I think I must have stayed on the phone for at least 200 times redialing.”

Graf, 75, is served by the North Central Health District. He says he called hundreds of times within the span of a few hours. 

January 11, marked the first day this area could give vaccines to those 65 and older. Health District representative, Michael Hokanson, says the high number of calls from this age group caused system-wide issues.

“With the expansion to the 65 and older community, their caregivers, and more first responders, that’s at least 85,000 more people that qualify for vaccination,” Hokanson explained. “Our phone system was already maxed out most days, now it’s getting crushed under the weight of demand.”

South Central Health District call volume

The South Central Health District also experienced similar issues early Monday morning. Melissa Brantley, a representative from the district, says their system became overwhelmed with calls.

“At some point, we had 200 calls coming in at the same time,” Brantley said. “When you have that many calls coming in, it basically caused our call system to shut down.”

The South District expanded its phone lines today and provided residents with a website to make appointments. The North Central Health District will stick to scheduling appointments over the phone but hopes things become easier over time.

“We’re looking at alternatives, but I can tell you it’s not going to be better tomorrow,” Hokanson stated.

Although callers and those at the Department of Public Health face many frustrations, Brantley says the excitement for the vaccine shows a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Actually for us, it’s a good problem to have because it means that people really want the vaccine, which is what we want,” Brantley said.

Graf got through to a representative at around 2 p.m. Monday. He had to schedule his appointment in Twiggs County. 

Graf recommends callers exercise patience, but persistence with the Department of Public Health.

Problems Statewide

The websites of at least two public health districts crashed Monday, and other districts reporting overwhelming demand for appointments.

The state was already struggling with its vaccine rollout before the latest woes.

Coastal Health District Director Lawton Davis said he understood people were frustrated, but health departments were stretched thin.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday he wasn’t happy with the state’s progress in administering the vaccine, and officials had to “keep moving the needle.”

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Peyton Lewis is a 20-year-old reporter from Stockbridge, Georgia. She graduated in December of 2019 with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia. She found a love for reporting after receiving a video camera for her 8th birthday. She and her friends would make mock newscasts in her backyard other creative content. Peyton's love for writing and creating videos pushed her to pursue journalism. In order to kick-start her dream of being a reporter, she left the traditional high school experience at the age of 16 to attend Gordon State College as a full-time student. She graduated with her Associate's degree two weeks before graduating from high school. Previously, Peyton worked as a news intern for 11 Alive in Atlanta, a radio intern for the Joy FM, and a reporter/ technical manager for Grady Newsource. Peyton dreams to become an investigative reporter that leaves a lasting impact on the world around her. She loves Disney, dogs, spicy food, musicals, and her family. Peyton also enjoys reading, watching movies, cheering on the Dawgs, and going on new adventures.