Updated at 9:51 p.m.
Mary Barton believes she was one of the first people to register for a Covid-19 vaccine appointment in Vermont.
Barton spent Monday morning refreshing the Health Department website. When the signup link finally appeared, she clicked through and booked a slot for her 80-year-old mother for Wednesday — the first day clinics will open.
“I was so happy. I was crying,” Barton said.
Her mother lives alone in Burlington. For the past year, she hasn’t come into close contact with Mary or any of her other 13 children.
Barton said that although her mother’s appointment Wednesday won’t immediately change that — her mother will still need a second dose of the vaccine, and even then she’ll keep up precautions — it will provide the whole family some relief.
“We won’t be as afraid to get her sick,” Barton said.
All Vermonters 75 and older can now register for vaccine appointments online and by phone.
The Department of Health launched the online registration system around 9 a.m., and the call center opened about two hours later.
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By 6 p.m., more than 21,100 people had signed up, according to the department. That’s more than 50% of the available appointments.
“It’s a great day for public health,” Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan said Monday afternoon. “Best day in the last 12 months.”
About 80% of the department’s slots were scheduled online, Dolan said, a sign that Vermonters had heeded the state’s call to assist less tech-savvy relatives with the website. The rest were scheduled by phone — the department’s call center, staffed by about 350 people, was at capacity all day.
Some users hit technical snags. Multiple people told VTDigger that they never got an email that was required to confirm an account on the website. Without an account, they can’t make an appointment.
Dolan said users should double-check their email addresses for typos when starting an account — by 11 a.m., the department had logged more than 500 bad email addresses. If registrants try again and still don’t receive the account confirmation email, she said, they should schedule by phone instead.
Users should also check their spam or junk mail folders, in case the confirmation message was misfiled.
Others reported frustration trying to schedule appointments for multiple friends or relatives under one account. One email address can be linked to only one account, creating problems for those with no email address or who share an email.
The Health Department has offered a workaround: “Create a single account and add the other person as a ‘dependent’” following the prompts in the system, according to the department’s updated FAQs. There should be no limit on the number of dependents, Dolan said, but the department is asking users to limit the use of this feature to close relations.
Some people registered using a completely separate website: Kinney Drugs, the regional pharmacy chain, is scheduling vaccine appointments at 20 of its 21 Vermont locations (only Barton is excluded). About a quarter of the vaccine appointments scheduled by Monday afternoon were through the pharmacy.
The state is contracting with Kinney to provide vaccinations, Dolan said, and the pharmacies will report numbers back to the state for tracking. “The state is overseeing all of it, and we are counting all of it,” Dolan said.
But the two registration systems are completely separate. Registrants should choose one or the other, Dolan said — they should not book an appointment with Kinney if they have also registered on the Health Department site, or vice versa.
Another issue is reaching homebound Vermonters. The state plans to work with home health agencies and emergency medical services to reach those who can’t get to a clinic, but details for signing up are likely a couple of weeks away, Dolan said.
If anyone is unsure whether they’re included in this group, Dolan said, they should reach out to their local home health agency or their local area agency on aging.
To register for a vaccine appointment, visit healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine (preferred) or call 855-722-7878.
You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, address, email (if available), phone number, and health insurance information (if available, but not required).
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