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Brunswick County resident expresses frustration at vaccine rollout, encourages others to keep trying

Updated: Jan. 18, 2021 at 6:31 PM EST
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SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Richard Hilderman and his wife say it wasn’t a quick and painless process to get signed up for a coronavirus vaccine appointment.

Living in Sunset Beach, they said they signed up for the Novant Health MyChart account as soon as those 75 and older were eligible.

While they received a prompt to sign up for an appointment quite quickly, it took a couple weeks for them to actually get on the books.

“I would get a notice to get on MyChart and schedule an appointment. I do that and it says ‘No appointment available. Call your clinic or get on the link below,’” he said.

Brunswick County residents who are 65 or older are eligible for the vaccine, and are asked to sign up for the Novant portal.

Once vaccine appointments are available, the portal sends a prompt to registered users to find a time.

But the appointments fill up quickly, just as they do in other parts of the Cape Fear region, but with Brunswick County having roughly 45,000 eligible for the vaccine, the demand is even higher.

“Novant Health adds appointments based on the allocation from the state,” a spokesperson said in an email response to queries Monday. “As we know how much we will get for the week, we add appointments based on those numbers. This is why we encourage people who have been notified of their eligibility to schedule their vaccination to constantly check MyChart to see if appointments have been added.”

Hilderman said he recognizes that there is a supply and demand problem, but it isn’t just the limited number of vaccines he’s been frustrated by, but the difficulty he had in getting in touch with a real person.

“It may give you a number to call, and when I call that number, I get a robot recording. And they tell me to go to another number, and I get a recording, and they say there’s no appointments available. This is the problem, there is serious communication problems,” he said.

Both Novant and the Brunswick County Health Department have said they are dealing with a significant number of phone calls each day. When the first phase opened to the public, the county reported receiving nearly 6,000 phone calls.

Hilderman said he was eventually able to contact a member of the Brunswick County Commission, who helped him get in touch with someone.

A Novant spokesperson said they recognize the frustrations of the community, and they are actually encouraged that there is such high interest in taking the vaccine.

“We are so grateful to have a community so eager to do their part in getting vaccinated and we are trying to roll the vaccine out as quickly and efficiently possible, but it relies on our allocation we receive from the state.”

Hilderman, too, said despite the challenges he and his wife have faced, and the difficulty he had in getting an appointment, he hopes others will keep trying to find their spot.

“There is a lot of frustration about getting this thing, but please keep trying,” he said. “Because until we get to herd immunity, this thing is not going to go away.”

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