All COVID-19 vaccination appointments for seniors were snapped up online in first 2.5 hours in Portland | #television | #elderly | #movies
Under intense demand, seniors ages 80 and older in the Portland area who went online booked every COVID-19 vaccination appointment available to them in the approximately first two and a half hours they were eligible on Monday.
It was the first day Gov. Kate Brown allowed this eldest group of Oregonians to start scheduling vaccinations across Oregon — and those who were internet savvy or had relatives who could help them seized the chance after 10 months of the pandemic that has hit their age group the hardest.
The process differs from county to county, but in the Portland area, the state’s vaccination information website — https://covidvaccine.oregon.gov — began allowing seniors to start booking appointments at 9 a.m. Monday. By 11:35 a.m., all appointments at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport’s red economy parking lot for the next week — through Tuesday, Feb. 16 — were taken.
But as of 2 p.m., about 700 vaccination slots still were available for those who use 211 to secure appointments, said Debbie Karman, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente. But some people who called 211 reported hours-long waits or getting hung up on by the automated system.
It’s unclear when new appointments will open up. The Oregonian/OregonLive is seeking clarification from local health providers. The two mass vaccination sites are inoculating residents of Portland area residents, with the airport site designated for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues.
The governor and state public health officials have asked older residents for patience because there’s not enough vaccine to immediately inoculate all of them. Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said last week that it could be early May before 75% of seniors ages 65 and older who wish to be vaccinated will be with two doses.
Allen said he also estimates that’s about when 75% of other groups that the governor already has made eligible will have been fully vaccinated. Those groups include early learning and K-12 school employees, health care workers in Phase 1a and jail and prison inmates.
The governor has been heavily criticized by seniors for postponing their vaccination eligibility dates by weeks, while allowing daycare, preschool and K-12 employees access to the vaccines starting Jan. 25 statewide.
Monday’s vaccination scheduling process was peppered with a few surprises for seniors. For one, although seniors could book their appointments Monday, no vaccinations were actually going to take place Monday, at least in the Portland area. Most appointments started Wednesday.
Some readers who contacted The Oregonian/OregonLive Monday morning also reported having trouble booking an appointment. Because of a public information campaign that reached few, many seniors or those booking for them were unaware that appointments could only be scheduled after 9 a.m. Many also discovered on their own that they had to visit the state’s vaccination information website https://covidvaccine.oregon.gov/ before clicking on its “Let’s get started” button and gaining access to appointments through its chat tool — but only for residents of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Columbia counties.
Also unknown to many, staff answering the lines at 211 could schedule appointments for Portland area residents. But seniors or their loved ones advocating for them reported being put on hold for two or more hours. Others were abruptly disconnected. A pre-recorded message said 211 was experiencing “extremely high call volumes.”
Those who secure first-dose appointments will be scheduled for second doses at the time of their first vaccinations, said Karman, the Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman.
In all this week, 20,000 first doses have been designated for seniors 80 and older statewide. About 5,500 doses are going to seniors in the Portland area.
Eligibility will expand to younger age groups in the following weeks: 75 and older starting Feb. 15, 70 and older starting Feb. 22 and 65 and older starting March 1.
Allen, the Oregon Health Authority’s director, said the state might open up eligibility to people with underlying conditions and some essential workers in early April. Allen speculated that it could be July when the general population of healthy adults in Oregon get access to the vaccines.
Allen said that timeline could be shortened if vaccines such as Johnson & Johnson’s receive emergency use authorization and doses start arriving in Oregon this spring.
Check back on OregonLive.com later. This story will be updated.
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— Aimee Green; firstname.lastname@example.org; @o_aimee