Older adults having trouble getting through DHEC phone line to sign up for appointments

S.C. vaccinating people 65+

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) -Right now, people in South Carolina who are 65 or older can sign up to get vaccinated.

However, what if you do not have access to the internet? A lot of seniors do not know how to use it-- or access tools like this.

”He said I may die if I don’t get this shot,” says Barbara Geneau.

You may not know Geneau, but you probably feel just like her husband. His several underlying health conditions could complicate a battle with COVID-19. So, they rejoiced hearing his age group, 65 and older, called for a shot.

”It was a little bit of a relief now after all this time a year later knowing that he can get it,” says Geneau.

Or so they thought. Geneau says she’s called South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (SCDHEC) care line four times. Waiting 45 minutes each time without speaking to anyone.

”You can’t even get through to a number to get an appointment to get a shot,” she says. “So it’s a scary feeling.”

”We don’t want our elderly residents waiting to get their vaccine,” says Kacka. “They can be assisted in making their appointments by calling the vaccine information line.”

DHEC physician Michael Kacka talks about some older adults having trouble. DHEC’s website says it’s open seven days a week from 7am to 7pm. When WBTV called today—the voice said this message.

“Mondays and Tuesday are our busiest days, if you can’t wait call later in the week.”

Adding to that—this is the help line supporting people without internet. WBTV asked DHEC what it is doing to cut down on wait times and unanswered calls.

”We’ve made sure to increase our operators that are available to flag those calls so we can keep hold times to a minimum and keep calls coming through as efficiently as possible,” says Kacka.

The call center has 240 people sitting by the phones, but Geneau says whatever they are doing is not working.

”Where and when’s it gonna happen for him,” says Geneau. “Or is it going to happen when it’s too late?”

SCDHEC’s physician says 81 percent of the deaths in the state came from people 65 and older. He says state leaders like Governor Henry McMaster and DHEC decided it was time to lower the vaccine cutoff age once again.

”As we get more and more people vaccinated we’ll see that herd immunity. So the vaccines we have are really safe, really effective and ultimately look like they’ll get us out of this,’ says Kacka.

Here is how to get a vaccine:

Starting today, DHEC’s vaccine location map updated to include those 65 and older. If you try to sign up and only see an option for 70 and older, do not worry. All vaccine locations know DHEC’s guidance and will let you get a vaccine.

You will need your license to verify your age once you go get the shot. The vaccine line can help you get an appointment if you get through. I am going to keep pushing DHEC to see if they are actively thinking of ways to improve this system.

The state has a great online tool that let’s people put in a zip code and see nearby clinics. The site makes it easy to find a location-- and contact info. There are locations in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Lancaster and elsewhere.

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