Ohioans with pre-existing health conditions struggle to find vaccine appointments

Posted at 8:54 PM, Feb 16, 2021

CLEVELAND — Since the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, confusion has been at the forefront.

As more people become eligible for the shots, the struggle to find them is becoming more difficult.

Colleen Weiler got a second chance at life nearly two years ago.

“I had to have a double lung transplant because my lung disease had gotten bad enough that they predicted I would not survive much longer with that one,” Weiler said.

As a cystic fibrosis patient, the arrival of the coronavirus in the U.S. a year ago put Weiler’s life at risk.

“After elderly people, I’m about as high risk as it gets with a lung disease,” Weiler said.

Since Monday, Ohioans with pre-existing health conditions are now eligible for a shot in the arm, but Weiler says signing up to receive her first dose of a vaccine has been anything but seamless.

“There's just this bizarre chain of word of mouth to try to figure out who has it,” Weiler said.

Weiler said when trying to register for the vaccine at multiple pharmacies in Northeast Ohio, she received automated responses stating she did not qualify. Phone calls have also resulted in a dead-end, according to Weiler.

“I’m just concerned about how it's being communicated about how we can get it,” Weiler said. “I’m concerned about the glitches on the websites preventing people who are eligible from getting it.”

The state was supposed to roll out a centralized website Sunday to consolidate vaccine scheduling and appointment information, but that has not happened.

“The system will be critically important as we look forward to a time when we receive more of the vaccine and more Ohioans become eligible,” Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

DeWine announced phase one of launching the online portal is complete, but the database needs providers before it becomes functional.

Once launched, people will be able to type in their zip code and find appointments within 20 miles of their location.

However, Weiler says the vaccine rollout in the state so far has been more chaotic than concise.

“I’m not trying to jump in line or anything like that, but if I'm eligible,” Weiler said. “I realize it's only day two of me being eligible, but my condition is extremely serious.”