New Online Appointment System and Call Center to Simplify Getting COVID-19 Vaccine | Palmetto Politics

COLUMBIA – A one-stop online scheduling system for COVID-19 vaccine appointments in South Carolina is set to launch next week, replacing a nightmarish multistep registration process that even health officials call a four letter word.

A telephone helpline specifically for questions about vaccines and assistance in making appointments, with a larger number of operators, should also help the elderly to get vaccinated, which should mean that callers will actually pass.

Both should be operational next week. Stay tuned for more details, Dr Brannon Traxler, the state’s director of public health, told reporters on Friday.

His schedule, though still vague, came a day after Marshall Taylor, acting director of the State Department of Health and Environmental Control, gave lawmakers a lot of “days or weeks.” more vague for the simplified system, assuring them that it wouldn’t be “months or a month.”

The DHEC system which went live on January 13, when people aged 70 and over became eligible for an injection, involves checking a state website for green dots on a map – indicating where appointments are available – then contacting that provider to register.

But that’s just the first layer of hassle. The next steps involve the Federal Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS. And that requires having an email address, something many of South Carolina’s most vulnerable residents lack.

The system also slows down suppliers. The Medical University of South Carolina needs nine people a day just to enter data into VAMS, which could be redeployed to a vaccination clinic, said Dr Patrick Cawley, CEO of MUSC Health.

Further complicating matters are issues within the system, including the added irritation that VAMS “spontaneously cancels appointments,” Taylor said.

Hospitals resume COVID vaccination efforts in SC, but available doses cannot meet demand

He promised senators on January 12 that a replacement was underway.

“VAMS is a four letter word, and we don’t like it either,” Taylor said Thursday. “It’s a difficult system to use for providers, and DHEC, and the public, most importantly.”

In DHEC’s new centralized online system, people will see providers’ available appointment times and can schedule both their first and second shots. The follow-up shot, several weeks after the first, is necessary for immunity, for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Those who do not have an email can call the new hotline to make an appointment.

“It’s going to be a much less clunky system than VAMS, and we think it will make things a lot easier,” Taylor said.

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DHEC’s new call center will initially be made up of 100 people, which will grow to several hundred people, he said.

DHEC already has a call center, but its operators answer questions and manage appointments for everything the huge agency handles. Its workforce was doubled to 60 on January 13 after a flood of calls from newly eligible seniors made it completely unusable.

Until the designated vaccine call center is operational, Taylor said, people should continue to visit DHEC’s website if possible, as line-of-care wait times will continue. to be long.

“I’m sorry that people have to wait and not be able to pass,” he said.

How to allocate the limited supply of HC vaccines statewide will be decided by the DHEC board of directors.

Earlier this week, South Carolina’s largest hospital system, Prisma, announced it was making visits to its drive-thru vaccination sites in Columbia and Greenville. The same-day assistance was a recognition that many members of the population aged 70 and over do not have internet access to make an appointment or, even if they do, may not be in touch. able to navigate the cumbersome online registration system. .

Thousands of eligible seniors were vaccinated without an appointment in the drive-thru that began on Monday.

But on Friday, Prisma said the Greenville site would no longer accept visits and the Columbia location would likely follow.

“Our supply has now shrunk,” said Dr Saria Saccocio, chief ambulatory physician at Prisma Health. “We do not have an excess stock of vaccines.”

Prisma officials told lawmakers their goal was to vaccinate 10,000 people a day. They came very close on Thursday, with 9,370 people getting a chance at both drive-thru sites. But the ability to achieve the goal, and to do so continuously, depends on the supply.

South Carolina’s weekly federal shipment of approximately 63,000 initial doses – plus second doses, which are ordered separately – are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

There are even more appointments to get a vaccine than there are doses available statewide, Traxler said.

Prisma alone has registered 100,000 appointments specifically for people aged 70 and over, said Saccocio.

Jessica holdman contributed to this report.


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