Long wait times for setting up appointments for vaccines in SC; more workers expected to take calls

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SOUTH CAROLINA (WJBF) — A number of seniors use computers and other devices, but for some, they rely on the phone to take care of business, including making appointments. The vaccine roll-out is proving to make that difficult but a solution is in place that could make the process run more smoothly.

“The largest obstacle is still the number of vaccines, particularly the number of first doses that enter the state from the federal government,” Interim Public Health Director for South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Dr. Brannon Traxler said.

Many of you contacted me on social media, sharing the issues you are having when trying to register for vaccines. Some of those issues including not be able to speak with someone at the dedicated telephone helpline for seniors.

“If you’re going to have people call in, have enough people to man the phone calls because you would expect that you’re going to get a lot of phone calls,” one Aiken resident said.

State health officials say they have been inundated with calls since the next phase of the roll-out happened Wednesday morning. “”We are experiencing very high wait times right now. We had more than 5,000 people calling into our Care Line at once.,” Dr. Traxler shared.

To put that in perspective, that’s just shy of the total number of calls handled in an average week. An average call volume is just larger than that at about 8,000 calls a week.

Now the agency is placing more boots on the ground to help expand its operations. “We’ve contracted with a vendor to double the number of dedicated call center operators,” Dr. Traxler said. Total call center team members will go from 30 to 61.

They are also making changes to the way the calls flow into the call center for better efficiency.
A coordination effort is also underway with emergency management officials to activate its emergency line used to notify residents of hurricanes or other natural disasters to help with the overflow. There will be no additional numbers to call. Residents will use the same number provided by DHEC to reach them as well, SCEMD Chief of Public Information & External Affairs Derrec Becker. told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

“I don’t have an estimate for what that will do in terms of time for decreasing the wait time. We are doing everything we can to get to everyone as fast as we can, but also to provide all the entire information that they need when talking to them,” Dr. Traxler added.

Officials say hospitals will receive 100 percent of the second doses they requested, but only about 20-25 percent of the first doses.

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