SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Since the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Ohioans have been frustrated and confused.
As more people become eligible for the vaccine, the struggle to find it is becoming more difficult.
More than 110,000 people have called or emailed Summit County Public Health about when and where they can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Director Donna Skoda.
“We would release the link or the phone number and then about 13,000 to 14,000 hits would happen and phone calls to the point where it would shut down the phone system,” Skoda said.
With that high demand, a limited number of appointments, and specific eligibility classes, the system couldn’t keep up.
“Individuals were constantly getting error messages," Skoda said.
The hiccups with technology prompted Summit County Public Health to announce the March 1 rollout of a new lottery system for vaccine appointments.
“We’re going to just use a random number generator and pull out a thousand emails, send out those thousand emails and see how many individuals respond,” Skoda said.
Nancy Holland of Summit County is patiently waiting for her turn to enroll for the vaccine.
“As I understand it, this is a traffic control effort,” Holland said. “I don't think any of us need be concerned that this is some sort of a preferential treatment measure. It's not like that.”
Holland said she understands the need for a lottery-style sign-up method.
“Folks are sort of taking up tracking appointments like it's their hobby or their other job,” Holland said. “It’s designed to avoid crashing the system. It's also designed to, I think, soften the pandemic fatigue that many of us are feeling.”
Skoda said while some people may be frustrated with the new method, she hopes the lottery system will allow eligible Ohioans to register for the vaccine more quickly by removing some electronic roadblocks.
“It’ll be a smaller, hopefully, number of people calling at one time so we can secure appointments,” Skoda said.
Ultimately though, she advised Ohioans wanting to sign up for the vaccine to keep their options open.
“f you want to be vaccinated sooner than later, you should really get your name on several lists,” Skoda said. “You can get called by whoever has the vaccine first.”
You may enroll in the lottery system online with Summit County Public Health.