The Guilford County Health Department has become the latest hospital or county health agency to be overwhelmed with demand for the COVID-19 vaccine from individuals ages 75 and older.
The News & Record reported on Saturday that all of the county's available Phase 1B vaccination appointments have been filled through at least Thursday. The department reached that appointment status by 4 p.m. Saturday.
As a result, the department's call-in line won't operate Sunday.
The county said it will resume appointments once the next round of doses arrives from DHHS, likely Monday or Tuesday. They can be made at www.healthyguilford.com or by calling 336-641-7944.
Vaccinations are limited currently in N.C. to individuals in the Phase 1A and first subgroup of Phase 1B, which are individuals ages 75 and over.
The current Phase 1A distribution is for health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, individuals who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.
According to DHHS' COVID-19 dashboard, 151,902 North Carolinians have received their first vaccine dose as of 11 a.m. Friday. Of those totals, 9,115 have received both doses.
Forsyth has had 245 individuals receiving both doses and 9,499 individuals with one dose.
The Forsyth Department of Public Health placed a temporary hold on taking appointment calls Thursday after "reaching its capacity for appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for seniors age 75 and older."
Joshua Swift, Forsyth's health director, said the department has received about 50,000 calls for the currently available 2,500 vaccination appointment slots. He said those slots will be filled by starting at the top of the call backlog.
The department said it "has a call log from its phone system and will be returning calls of those who couldn’t get through, in the order they were received, until all remaining appointments are filled. Staff will leave messages but will not accept return calls."
"Since thousands of people called the appointment line, staff will only try to contact each person one time until the appointments are full," the department said.
The department said it will reopen registration options, including by calling 336-703-2018, once it receives additional vaccine doses.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health secretary, said the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is informed by 8 a.m. Friday what allotment it will receive from the U.S. DHHS to distribute for the next week.
The department and Forsyth Medical Center began vaccinating Wednesday the first subgroup on Phase 1B. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center started Thursday.
There have been long and frustrating waits to schedule an appointment through the department.
The Winston-Salem Journal received dozens of phone calls and emails from people saying they waited for hours trying to make an appointment, constantly got a busy signal, were told to call back or they were cut off in their attempt.
One reason for the overwhelming number of calls to the health department is confusion about how the vaccines will be offered.
Nikki Nissen, Novant Health Inc.'s chief nursing officer, said Tuesday that "the strategy is for Novant and Atrium hospitals to vaccinate their own patients and employees, and the county health departments will be for those individuals and essential workers who are unattached" to a health care provider.
Nissen said in-network individuals to Novant will be notified either through its MyChart website, an email or via a letter in the mail. The system plans to provide a toll-free phone number for questions and scheduling appointments, as well as an online scheduling option through MyChart.
Nissen said vaccinations will be offered on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday format until there are enough doses to warrant weekend or extended weekday hours. Novant said its goal is vaccinating between 800 to 1,000 in-network individuals a week systemwide.
Wake Forest Baptist patients will be updated about access to vaccination opportunities through their myWakeHealth account and at www.wakehealth.edu/Coronavirus/Vaccine.
"Right now, we’re asking our patients to please not call us," spokesman Joe McCloskey said.
The COVID-19 vaccinations at Cone will be done at Cone's Green Valley campus, 801 Green Valley Road in Greensboro.
The vaccinations also are by appointment only and require registering in advance. People from other counties can make appointments for the Greensboro clinic.
To register, go to www.conehealth.com/vaccine or call 336-890-1188.