Gaston County COVID-19 vaccine registration hotline crashes after hundreds call

Vaccine appointments in Gaston County

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - On Tuesday, hundreds of people tried to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in Gaston County.

Anyone in Phase 1A or Phase 1B Group 1, which consists of people aged 75 and up, are eligible.

The county health department launched a phone number for registration, but so many people called that the system crashed.

The Gastonia Farmer’s Market is set to host 600 people for their first dose of the covid-vaccine on Friday.

The system crashed Tuesday morning when they got 400 voicemails in less than two hours.

“I would have thought that the county would have been a little more prepared than what they appear to be,” Bobbie Altman told WBTV.

She said she was disappointed that call after call, she was unable to sign her 80-year-old father up for the vaccine.

“He’s a people person and likes to be around people and he’s been home,” she said.

It’s not just people in Phase 1B trying to sign up.

Kimm Santa is a freelance dental hygienist which puts her in Phase 1A, but she was also been unable to register Tuesday morning.

“I don’t have an office that will advocate to get me a shot so I have to figure out how to do this on my own,” Santa said.

It has been harder than she hoped.

“Got an answering thing that said oh leave a message but then it said this message is full,” Santa said. “Great.”

Adam Gaub, with Gaston County, said they had about 24 hours to put the hotline together. He said they are currently working on adding an online registration system as well.

“We’re working on getting some of those online forms, we have to make sure we get those connected so we aren’t double booking anybody,” Gaub said.

By the end of the day, Santa was able to get an appointment, which she tells WBTV made her “giddy” with excitement.

She is thankful because, without a vaccine, she had put her life on pause.

“I stopped taking jobs until we can get a vaccine,” Santa said. “As a dental hygienist, you are right in someone’s face without a mask because you’re working on their teeth. When you have an elderly patient in your chair coughing it kind of takes your breath away.”

Bobbie Altman tells WBTV she gave up after being unable to connect with the Gaston County Health Department and was able to sign her father up for a vaccine through Atrium Health.

Atrium and Novant Health are offering registration opportunities for Phase 1B Group 1 patients this week.

At this time, CaroMont Health is still focused on Phase 1A.

According to a spokesperson for CaroMont Health:

CaroMont Health is actively working to develop plans for Phase 1B. At this point, CaroMont Health has only been provided approval to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The ultra-cold storage requirements present some logistical challenges to transport and deliver the vaccine; however, we are actively working to broaden vaccine delivery in line with the state’s Phases.

Gaston DHHS is working diligently to stand up their vaccine program for Phase 1B, and CaroMont Health fully supports their efforts. In order to vaccinate the more than 200,000 people in our community, it is going to require that both organizations do everything possible to balance the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and the need to deliver the vaccine safely and efficiently.

Right now the Gaston County Health Department has 12 operators answering the phones and clearing the backlog of voicemails.

According to Gaub, by the end of the day Tuesday more than 500 people were registered.

They will hold clinics each Friday, so if you haven’t gotten through, they suggest you call again tomorrow at 8 am.

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