Health department websites to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments crash

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Monday is the first day that people 65 and older in the general public are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

However, a few health department websites to schedule appointments crashed this morning after the servers were overloaded, including the Cobb and Douglas Public Health website.

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Channel 2′s Tom Jones talked to Cobb County officials, who said the server crashed and the department is working to resolve it.

A Georgia Department of Health spokesperson said websites and phone lines have been overwhelmed and appointments are filled through February in many cases.

Channel 2 Action News spoke to people all over metro Atlanta who couldn’t get through to make an appointment.

“No one’s ever picking up,” Eric Moore said. “I promise you, I called 134 times.”

Moore was trying to call Troup County’s COVID hotline to set up an appointment for his mother.

“I’d feel more confident if she’s able to get it and get some of her freedom back,” Moore said. “Because right now, she wears three masks to go everywhere.”

Laverne Pharr thought the vaccine was a ray of hope to get back to some sort of normal life.

“And now it’s here, but we can’t get it,” Pharr said.

The State Department was urging people to be patient. Cobb County hoped to have a new appointment link on its website before the day is over.

“We have received multiple reports from Cobb residents that the website taking applications for COVID vaccinations for people over the age of 65 is down. This is a state-run website that apparently crashed this morning due to an overwhelming response,” the county said in a release. “Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health say they are working to bring the servers back online and hope to do so in the coming hours. We apologize for any inconvenience. When the site returns you can visit this link to have access to the application portal.”

Supply is limited, so when the websites come back up, appointments may not be immediately available.

So far, more than 183,000 people across the state have been vaccinated, about a third of the amount of vaccines that the state has.

In some counties, the rollout was going better than in others.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was at a clinic in Hall County where providers were giving out vaccines every five minutes. The process takes about a half an hour from beginning to end.

Bill Wonnacott, 88, said he had no second thoughts about joining other metro Atlanta seniors getting their first jab of the Moderna coronavirus vaccines.

“We have been looking forward to it for a long time, and the staff here was very, very good,” Wonnacott said.

The Northeast Georgia Health System began taking appointments online for those in Phase 1A. In less than two hours, all of the January appointments were booked.

“That actually takes us into February as well, because when a patient gets their first shot, we automatically book them for their second shot 28 days later,” Bobby Norris with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group said. “We are very happy to do this for the community and we are very happy with the response so far.”

Ed Driscoll, 79, said he tried to reserve a vaccine appointment where he lives in Gilmer County but couldn’t reach anyone. His brother told him to head to Hall County.

“He called and said, ‘This place opened today,’” Driscoll said. “It’s the first time in my life I looked forward to getting a shot. And I’ve had a lot of shots.”

Beran Smith said the vaccine shot is the first step on the road back to normal life, which seems a distant memory.

“Being able to get back out with friends, being able to do some of the things we enjoyed doing in the past,” Smith said.

[RELATED: Georgia making progress but isn’t where it needs to be with vaccine distribution, Kemp says]

Channel 2′s Chris Jose was in Cobb County, where one pharmacy is hoping to get more supply of the vaccine. While the Cobb and Douglas County Department of Health website remained down Monday, a local pharmacy was steadily vaccinating patients.

Innovation Compounding is in Kennesaw. The business has set up about half a dozen vaccination stations in a parking lot. The pharmacy’s owner said 2,300 people are on the waiting list for the shot.

Rich Swerdlin and his family got the Moderna shot at Innovation Compounding. Swerdlin is 67 years old and has diabetes. He got the shot with his 99-year-old mother-in-law.

“I’m very lucky, Swerdlin said. “I’ve got a committed wife and she was all over the internet trying to get it done,” Swerdlin said. “It went very smoothly. The time we had to spend here was minimal. And luckily, the injection was pretty much pain free.”

Shawn Hodges is president and CEO of Innovation Compounding. He said he has appointments lined up through the end of February.

“We’re going to use up all of that supply by the end of the week,” Hodges said. “We are waiting for more vaccines so we can fulfill the public’s needs.”

He said it’s their third week providing vaccines and they’ve had 300 doses come to them.

“We’ve already used 180, so we have about 120 left of the vaccines,” Hodges said.

Hodges said that every week, they are requesting 5,000 doses, but they haven’t gotten them yet.

On Sunday, the Georgia Department of Public Health launched a COVID-19 vaccine locator tool.

It doesn’t allow you to schedule an appointment but has a list of locations of where the vaccines are available.

Both county health departments and private providers are included in the tool.

Every health department in the state and most private providers require an appointment for vaccine administration.

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