70+ age group struggles to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 11:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With thousands of South Carolinians age 70 or older trying to sign up to get a COVID-19 vaccine, some hospitals are having to stop taking appointments because supply isn’t meeting demand.

Kershaw Health released a statement Wednesday saying they received 1,000 appointment requests in less than 24 hours, and they are only receiving 150 to 200 vaccines a week from DHEC. They had to stop taking appointments because they say it will take at least 10 weeks to get all of those people their first and second doses.

“It makes me angry, sad, and amazed,” said 74-year-old Gloria Kellerhals, who lives in Chester and has spent hours on the phone and online trying to get a COVID vaccine.

She said she called DHEC’s Care Line Wednesday to find out the closest provider to her home. She tried to sign up through MUSC’s website but kept receiving error messages.

“I checked Florence, Columbia, Charleston, every MUSC in the state, and it has a cute little message saying oops our servers are down,” Kellerhals explained. “I even waited 24 hours after they announced they were dropping the age limit and thought this will be easy, and now, it’s sad.”

She still doesn’t have an appointment, but she’s worried about others her age who aren’t computer literate because most vaccine providers require online registration and a unique email address.

“If I didn’t know how to use a computer or have internet, what would I do?” she asked. “If I can’t call my doctor’s office to get help, what do I do?”

Some seniors who have had success booking an appointment will still have to wait for weeks. Forest Acres resident Nancy Dunlap, 72, and her husband contacted more than a half dozen providers before finally getting on the books for late March.

“That’s an awful long time,” Dunlap explained. “We’re just astounded at the lack of information, lack of direction, and lack of clarity in what we’ve been told.”

So why open the vaccines to such a large group of people without enough vaccines? DHEC still only anticipates 60,000 doses a week but said 10 times that number of people are age 70 or older.

“If you don’t have it, tell us on a statewide basis,” said Kellerhals. “Don’t have us pretend that you do have it and register to get it.”

Governor Henry McMaster’s office said they knew getting the vaccine out to everyone in this group wasn’t going to happen overnight, but they expect the number of doses and appointment availability to grow. As for now, the wait continues.

If you are 70 or older and qualify for a shot but don’t have internet access, you can call DHEC’s Care Line at 1-855-472-3432.

This line does not allow you to schedule appointments, but an employee will work to provide contact information for the closest vaccination site near you.

MUSC said those without internet access can contact their COVID19 hotline at 843-985-8888.

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