Technical issues mar DeKalb’s COVID-19 vaccine launch for seniors
RN Wanda Kelley prepares a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for a health care worker at the DeKalb COVID-19 BrandsMart USA drive through testing site on Thursday in Doraville. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
By Zachary Hansen
Despite difficulty registering for a vaccine, early vaccine allotment was quickly snapped up
DeKalb County is preparing to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to seniors beginning on Monday, but officials say technology issues interfered with early online registrations, causing frustration for those eager for the shot.
Adults who are 65 and older, along with their caregivers, can receive a COVID-19 vaccine by appointment as long as supplies last, according to the DeKalb County Board of Health. Although health officials were working to repair the online registration problems Friday, the county health department’s website,dekalbhealth.net, continued to crash throughout the day.
Board of Health spokesman Eric Nickens told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the technology problems were caused by the number of people trying to access it.
Despite the difficulties, within the first two and a half hours, 7,000 people registered for a vaccination. DeKalb received roughly 8,200 vaccine doses, according to Nickens. He added that it’s possible the county will receive additional doses by Monday, but he said that had not been confirmed.
By Saturday morning, all appointment slots for next week were filled, according to the health department’s website. The form to register has been deactivated until more appointment slots open.
In the future, Nickens recommended bypassing the health department’s homepage by visitinghttp://ow.ly/xImd50D3AAv, which is the direct link for vaccine registration. Seniors can also call 404-294-3700 for vaccine registrations, when appointments become available again.
Seniors and healthcare or frontline workers who pre-register for vaccine can receive it at two of the county’s drive-thru testing locations: the BrandsMart USA site in Doraville, 5000 Motors Industrial Way, and the former Sam’s Club site in Stonecrest, 2994 Turner Hill Road.
Both locations will offer vaccinations from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The BrandsMart USA site will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, while the former Sam’s Club will be closed. Neither location will offer vaccinations on Sundays.
According to the release, the “vaccine is in high demand and supply remains very limited.” The Board of Health warned that if no appointments are available, its because the county has exhausted its current vaccine supply.
“Slots are being opened based on vaccine availability,” Dr. Elizabeth Ford, DeKalb’s health director, said in a statement. “We currently have enough vaccine for the first few days of (next) week, so that is the number of slots available to schedule. We ask for the public’s continued patience as vaccine supplies become more readily available.”
Demand for coronavirus vaccines in Georgia has skyrocketed as the state grapples with overflowing hospitals andmounting death counts.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp asked for patience from the public as they try to sign up to receive the limited doses. Kemp said he couldn’t speak to specifics about websites crashing or phone lines not working when people try to schedule vaccinations.
The past few days, DeKalb prioritized distributing vaccines to healthcare workers, first responders and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Family members and spouses ofthose groupsare not eligible to receive the vaccine at this time, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’svaccine rollout plan. DeKalb said it is adhering to the state’s plan.
In preparation for delivering vaccines more widely, the county closed its three coronavirus testing sites earlier this week. DeKalb’s COVID-19 testing will resume Monday at only one site: Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church at 1879 Glenwood Avenue.
Appointments and registration for tests are required and available atdekalbhealth.net/covid-19. Testing is free, and the site will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
The first doses of vaccines in Georgia were earmarked for health care workers and for residents and staff of nursing homes. But on Dec. 31, Kemp and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said thatthe program would be opened to those over age 65, as well as to police officers and firefighters where vaccine supplies are available.
To receive a vaccine, identification must be provided. Here are the forms the county will accept:
• Driver’s license or identification card to verify age
• Active clinician’s professional license
• Healthcare employer identification badge
• Letter from a healthcare employer on company letterhead
• Pay stub from your healthcare provider
• Professionally printed business card identifying you as a frontline healthcare worker
I am proud to serve over 380,000 constituents from Doraville to Tucker, Decatur (Unincorporated DeKalb), Lithonia, and Stonecrest. District 7 is one of the largest districts in the State of Georgia. With diversity, unique communities, and a wide variety of economic resources, I embrace the opportunity to leverage our resources to make DeKalb great!