CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A man said he waited on hold for nearly two hours after calling the state health department for information about setting an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The number he called was the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Care Line, which health officials said could help people get information on getting the vaccine.
On Tuesday, the official wait time for connecting with someone on the call was estimated at one hour. But he said he never got through to someone to answer his questions.
DHEC officials say they anticipate the call volume will only increase Wednesday, the day people who are 70 and older in the state can actually begin setting those appointments.
The Care Line is an existing line DHEC maintains at 855-472-3432.
State health officials say appointments can’t be made through the Care Line itself. However, callers can get the phone number for a facility near them where they can then call to schedule a vaccine appointment.
Executive Director of Charleston Area Senior Citizens Donna Cook is working to inform the people they serve about vaccination appointments.
“There are a lot of barriers still there and in particular this vulnerable age group, they’ve been isolated for so long...” Cook said. “The vaccine, they’re thinking is going to be the answer to those prayers and they’re going to really be wanting it.”
She’s creating fliers with information to hand deliver to seniors they serve through Meals on Wheels and the surrounding community. She says many are over 80 years old and don’t have internet access or transportation.
State health officials have a map, which will go live on Wednesday, to show locations accepting appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. The map will provide the contact information for scheduling appointments at those locations. The map itself is not a way to schedule an appointment.
About 50 locations are expected to be added to the map next week.
State health officials say people without internet access should first and foremost try to call a health care facility directly where they would like to schedule their appointment. They say individuals can call any health care facility or hospital in the state to get the latest information on whether or not that facility is currently able to accept vaccine appointments.
The map is intended to be a resource to put that information in one place.
DHEC officials say they are partnering with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division to assist with responding to calls if needed. EMD officials say they could also use the National Guard or the State Guard to help with phone calls if necessary.
If it says an hour away, nine out of 10 they’re going to hang up, they’re not going to get to stay on the line,” Cook said.
State health officials estimate that roughly 627,800 South Carolinians are 70 or older. They say many are already receiving their vaccine through other Phase 1A eligibility.
There is no estimated timeline on how long it could take to vaccinate people in this age group. State leaders say that depends on vaccine supply as doses are delivered by the federal government, and how quickly health care facilities can schedule appointments.
Walk-ins are not able to receive the vaccine.
When you arrive to the appointment you must provide your driver’s license or form of ID that confirms your age. South Carolina residency is not a requirement.