Lieutenant governor pitches in on vaccinations (copy)

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long is also a nurse, and she helped administer COVID-19 vaccines at a recent drive-through event for frontline healthcare providers, including Jon Seeley, left. Since event was a success, additional such events have been scheduled, with the first of appointments for those 65 or older, in Phase 1b, to be offered through a new online vaccination appointment request system.

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) on Wednesday, Jan. 20, successfully launched a system for individuals to request an appointment at vaccination events, as the state entered the Phase 1b stage of the vaccination plan.

As of 4 p.m., more than 56,000 requests had been successfully submitted. For the first phase of the system, requests are only being taken from Delawareans age 65 or older, who are at higher risk for COVID-19 incidence and mortality.

The requests being submitted create a waiting list for vaccination appointments, and do not immediately provide an appointment time and location, which will be offered to requesters as they become available.

DPH drive-through vaccination events to be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Delaware City and Georgetown will provide the first opportunity for people who requested an appointment to be vaccinated. Invitations to make appointments for these events will be extended on Thursday, Jan. 21, officials said, with the highest priority for the limited slots going to individuals with age and health conditions that put them at greater risk.

Some notes on Wednesday’s launch:

  • 56,276 requests total between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., with the first 33,000 requests by 10 a.m.
  • About 27,000 requests were from New Castle County, 24,000 were from Sussex County and 5,200 were from Kent County.
  • The COVID-19 website was slow loading for some users this morning because of high traffic, but the website and registration were operational at all times.
  • Staffing at the call center was increased to handle additional call volume Wednesday. While wait times at the call center to speak to an operator were higher Wednesday morning, wait times were down to 4 minutes by early afternoon.
  • The request system generated a confirmation email that the request had been submitted. Some individuals reported that their email provider sent those to Spam folders, so individuals who did not get a confirmation email from their online submission may want to check their Spam folder. After this report was initially received, developers made adjustments to settings to reduce the chance the message would be marked as spam.

“We are really proud of the way the request system worked today,’ said Director of Public Health Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Now that we have requests from so many, we can begin through a process of getting them vaccinated. The first opportunity will be at our drive-through clinics this weekend, but that certainly will not accommodate all these requests.

“Even though people have submitted a request, if they get an opportunity with their medical provider or employer or pharmacy, they should take that,” Rattay advised. “We are building a system with multiple paths to get vaccinated, and this requests system is a part of it.”

Email invitations to create an account and schedule an appointment will come from VAMS, the Vaccine Administration Management System created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for use in multiple states. It will contain an individualized link and instructions. Because it is a national product that has been used in previous phases, the emails issued Thursday may say “Your organization or employer designated you in a priority group for vaccination,” even though people submitted their own requests.

Phase 1b includes vaccinating persons 65 or older, as well as frontline essential workers. Approximately 200,00 Delawareans are eligible for vaccination in that phase, which will focus heavily on vaccinating those 65 or older first. Vaccines available through pharmacies are currently only for persons 65 or older, and are more likely to be available to Phase 1b essential workers in the coming weeks.

As of midnight, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 49,873 administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been reported to the state’s immunization information system, DelVAX. Delaware’s latest COVID-19 vaccination statistics can be found under the Vaccine Tracker dashboard at de.gov/healthycommunity. Additional information about COVID-19 vaccine rollout is available at de.gov/covidvaccine. Questions can be directed to the Vaccine Call Center at 1-833-643-1715. People who are deaf and hard-of-hearing should call 211 or text their ZIP code to 898-211. Individuals can email their questions concerning the vaccine to Vaccine@Delaware.gov.

Information about testing events, including community testing sites, permanent fixed testing sites, and freestanding sites operated by the health care systems and hospitals, will be listed on the testing section of the Delaware coronavirus website at de.gov/gettested.

Delawareans 18 or older are being encouraged to download COVID Alert DE, Delaware’s free exposure notification app to help protect neighbors while ensuring privacy. Download it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.