Patience required as county moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine program

| February 10, 2021

Pictured are two of the six people who staff the county’s COVID-19 vaccine call center. Updates on the call center’s hours can be found at The center is open as vaccines become available to the county. (Josie Sellers)

Logistically the county’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is running like clockwork, but people need to be patient when it comes time to call for appointments to receive the shot.

“The clinic is running as well as any place in the state in a small community like ours,” said Coshocton County Commissioner Dane Shryock. “If we had more vaccines we could get 600 to 800 people vaccinated in an eight hour day.”

Unfortunately, the clinic only receives so many vaccines at a time and has a limited number of time slots operators can fill when the call center is open.

“Six people were hired to manage the phone lines that are run by our county computer phone system,” Shryock said. “Those six lines can only receive so many calls though.”

It takes an average of three to four minutes to book an appointment.

“When you call and get a person they have questions they have to ask you,” said Mary Beck, administrator/clerk. “If you say no to all those they then have to ask you what qualifies you today (to get the vaccine). Then you book the appointment, and they talk to you about transportation, forms, and where you need to go, and the callers always have questions. A quick call would be one to three minutes.”

Shryock said they completely understand that people are frightened and anxious, but there is no quick fix for the volume of calls the center is receiving.

“Yesterday (Feb. 9) at the call center from 10 a.m. to noon 4,538 people tried to call in,” he said.

They could only book 260 and that was done in less than an hour and 45 minutes.

“The phone system becomes overwhelmed along with our computer system,” Shryock said. “At one point yesterday 70 people tried to call at one given time. This call center is run through the county computer system. We can only dedicate so many lines to it so the rest of the county can still operate.”

Commissioner Gary Fischer believes one reason for the high volume of calls is because they are now at the point where those in the 65 and older and 80 and older age group can receive the vaccine.

“There are 7,400 people in that age group,” he said. “It will get better when more people don’t need it because they’ve already been vaccinated. People are frustrated, angry, and anxiety levels are high. We understand.”

Fischer said he would put the county’s information technology department against anyone’s when it comes to solving problems, but there is not a good answer for getting more people through the call center.

“The city and county health departments, the hospital, EMS, EMA and the commissioners are all working together to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as possible,” Fischer said.

The county board of commissioners became involved with the vaccination clinic when they offered their resources to assist the health departments.

“We offered to help with the logistics so the health departments could focus on getting shots in arms,” Shryock said.

The commissioners took care of hiring people for the call center, ushers for the parking lot, runners, and people to work registration and clean. They also purchased a floor cleaner for the building where the clinic is being held, which is the former Hopewell Industries on the corner of Seventh and Chestnut streets. Everything was taking care of with CARES Act funding that is billed back to the health departments.

“It takes a lot of people to make this happen,” Shryock said. “As of yesterday (Feb. 9) our percentage of people vaccinated are higher than any of the surrounding counties except Muskingum.”

Everyone working together makes the process of receiving the vaccine run well while still observing social distancing protocols.

“Typically, if everything is running smoothly within 20 minutes you are in and out and that is with the 15 minutes you have to wait after receiving the shot,” Beck said.

The six people working the call center lines are doing the best they can to manage the thousands of calls they receive in short period of time.

“It’s continuous when they are there,” Shryock said. “They can barely put the receiver down. When they finish a call there is another one right there. We are doing all we can until we can get more vaccines.”

While they understand people’s frustration, the commissioners encourage everyone to please be patient.

“People are typically so thankful and so happy when they are able to get their appointments,” Beck said.

Fischer agreed with her.

“People have said it’s like a weight lifted off of their shoulders,” he said.

As Coshocton County continues to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses it will continue to have vaccine clinics to provide the vaccine to all who wish to receive it. The number of available spots is dependent on the number of vaccine doses that are available. Once all slots are filled the call center will not be open until more doses are available. The public is encouraged to continue to check for updates as well as the Facebook pages of the Coshocton County Health Department, Coshocton City Health Department and Coshocton County EMA. All necessary forms to be completed and brought to the clinic can be found at Eligibility for the vaccine will be based on Ohio’s phased vaccination approach:

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Category: Government

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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