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Oklahoma COVID vaccine portal is troubling many seniors, help means long call waits

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 11:03:43-05

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma’s elderly population is experiencing technical difficulties with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine scheduler portal.

The 2 Works for You newsroom receives calls and emails daily from people in the 65 and older age group expressing how difficult it is to get a vaccine appointment.

Leaders frequently use the word “patience” when addressing vaccine appointment struggles.

“I promise anybody and everybody in Tulsa County who wants a vaccine, we will get you a vaccine,” said Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department during a press conference on Thursday.

That promise comes with a long wait.

“We really, I think, probably underestimated the need initially. We’ve literally received thousands of phone calls,” Eileen Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw and her team at Life Senior Services guide older Oklahomans who are trying to figure out the state’s online vaccine portal.

“We were aware technology was a big issue with some of the folks that we serve,” Bradshaw said. “When the state’s vaccine portal rolled out, technology gap rooted it’s head again because a lot of seniors don’t have access to computers. Many don’t have email addresses, which are needed to register.”

For Michael Merrill, getting registered was a breeze. He hit a brick wall at the next most important step.

“I found out about the website, I got myself registered,” Merrill said. “They very quickly got back with me with an email saying here’s the site, just log on and schedule an appointment. Well, it doesn’t work that way.”

Merrill and many others spend hours attempting to make an appointment, with no luck.

Dr. Dart said, “We do realize that those fill up very very fast. We just ask people to continue to be patient. continue to try to get into the portal. we know that this is not the most equitable of systems. I know we’ve said that multiple times.”

Appointments are released in increments. If the window of opportunity is missed, residents are stuck waiting on the next round.

“The way it’s set up… just frustrations," Merrill said.

During the press conference, Dr. Dart announced the health department received an additional 8,680 doses which will be used next week.

Dr. Dart added, “We typically add new appointments for the following week each Wednesday evening. We provide updates about new appointments on our social media platforms.”

While waiting to get vaccinated, Dr. Dart stresses Tulsans should keep up the basics: hand washing, mask wearing, and keeping distance.

Residents can call 2-1-1 and Life Senior Services to get help with the state’s vaccine portal. Call volumes for both are very high.

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