OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – “There’s probably 200,000 people that are registered and eligible to get an appointment, and we don’t have 200,000 appointments out there.”
That is what Keith Reed, Deputy Commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said when addressing concerns surrounding the state’s new COVID-19 vaccine portal.
“We want to take it to protect others” said Edmond resident, Judy Ferguson.
For Ferguson, trying to get a vaccine has been a lot of waiting and troubleshooting.
She and her husband are over 65, putting them in Phase 2.
“His email came at 1:40 in the morning, Sunday morning. Obviously, we weren’t up then, but when we got up, we got right on…already all gone” she said.
Based on the emails and calls into the KFOR newsroom, Judy is far from alone.
One question we see frequently – if you have a confirmation email, with a link taking you to a sign-up page, when all the appointments are full, should you expect an email telling you when they become available? The short answer, no.
For right now, your best bet is to monitor the situation and try to sign up as soon as you see an opening.
“Sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, those will be turned on, and typically Thursday is going to be the day where majority of appointments are made,” said Reed. “We encourage people when you get that email, that link that says you’re eligible to get an appointment. Keep that link. That’s where you can continue to go in and search for more appointments to be added,” he said.
“We have not set a specific time that says, ‘Okay, turn these on at 12:01’. We don’t have back-end logic in the computer system that flips them on at a certain time; it’s based on when they’re able to go in an enter those appointments,” said Reed.
Even some of our KFOR employees tried to sign their parents up and ran into portal problems.
While racing to beating the countdown at the top of the portal screen, no appointments are available 25, 50, even 100 miles from home.
If one is available, some are running into a technical glitch that keeps them from booking.
We asked, ‘What is the solution?’
“A list of sites that are on kind of our master list that may at some point be a site to do vaccines, may have vaccines available, but are not yet engaged with appointments,” said Reed.
Reed says that would explain the long list showing “no booking slots available.”
And what about the glitches?
Reed says it’s a matter of staff making improvements.
“I would give anything if we were just able to roll this out without any glitches, and we had something for every single person,” he said. “While they have an issue today, a glitch today doesn’t mean they’re going to have the issue tomorrow.”
Technical problems are not the only hold up.
People calling 2-1-1 are hitting a dead end as well.
The call center is only able to answer frequently asked questions, not book appointments.
“Know that we are increasing resources daily to be able to increase the capacity at 2-1-1 to provide that level of support” said Reed.
Reed also says this current portal system was never intended to be the final answer.
“We would love for people to go into the system and always be guaranteed that they can get an appointment, and at some point, I anticipate we will get there, but right now, with limited supply, it’s just not possible,” he said.
So, are they planning on expanding the vaccination rollout anytime soon? What about utilizing sites like the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds?
“If we can be assured that we have a steady supply of vaccine, we can get large weekly amounts coming into the state, then our intent is to spread it out at that time,” said Reed. “We have plans in place to where large venues like that can be utilized to process large numbers of people, I mean thousands of people in a day.”
They are also hoping to expand doses to their pandemic providers.
“As soon as we get more supply, I expect that number to shoot up” said Reed.
All of this rides on how much vaccine the state can get their hands on.
“We acknowledge that that is frustrating for people, I absolutely understand it, but it’s the reality of our current situation as we get more supply, we increase the opportunities to get vaccinated,” said Reed. “We never wrote it out intending for it to be the solution for everybody because we understand it’s not a one size fits all for Oklahomans.”
Reed also says they were expecting to hear more about vaccine protocol from the federal government at some point Tuesday.