Vaccine registration off to strong start in New Hampshire

  • Concord Hospital nurse Maryann Coiffi prepares the first COVID-19 vaccine as nurse Ryan Kosowicz watches on Wednesday morning, December 16, 2020 at the Memorial Medical Building where they will be vaccinating. The first dose was given to Dr. Christopher Fore, an ER doctor and Chief Quality Officer at the hospital.

Associated Press
Published: 1/23/2021 12:28:18 AM
Modified: 1/23/2021 12:28:15 AM

CONCORD — Registration for the next phase of New Hampshire’s coronavirus vaccination plan got off to a quick start Friday, with more than 70,000 people signing up in the first hour and more than 147,000 by late afternoon.

Registration opened at 8 a.m. for the approximately 325,000 people in Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan. That includes anyone age 65 or older, people with at least two qualifying medical conditions, corrections workers, and staff and residents of residential facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The easiest way to register is via the website. Those who can’t schedule an appointment online can call the state’s 211 hotline. While state officials had expected callers to endure wait times of an hour or more, the day started with wait times of about 25 minutes and by noon, callers were waiting less than five minutes.

“Today has been remarkably positive and demonstrates that the people of New Hampshire are ready and willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “This has truly been a statewide, all-hands-on-deck effort. We applaud the efforts of so many, including the National Guard, 211 call takers, healthcare providers, and the residents who registered for making today go as smoothly as it has.”

Those who sign up online were told to expect an email about scheduling their appointments within three to five days, but many will receive the messages earlier than that, according to the department.

Some Upper Valley residents said they had trouble getting into the registry on Friday morning.

Gail Wild, a 73-year-old Newport, N.H., resident, said she went to the site right at 8 a.m., and found information about the state’s vaccination process but couldn’t find a place to click through in order to register.

About 45 minutes to an hour later a button appeared and she was able to get through. She registered and was told she should get an email in three to five days allowing her to schedule an appointment.

“It would have been better if they said approximately 8,” Wild said in a phone interview.

Some residents also reported trouble with their browsers. As of Friday afternoon, the website had a banner at the top saying that the vaccine registration form “is only compatible with the most current stable version of Edge, Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari.”

But other Upper Valley residents said they were able to register on Friday without problems.

Shipp Webb, a 72-year-old from Belknap County, logged onto the state website around 7:45, about 25 minutes before registration was set to open.

Just around 8 a.m., Webb noticed the page was starting to slow down. When he reloaded it, his screen flashed an error message. In a panic — appointment slots are partly allocated on a first come, first serve basis — he reloaded the page over and over again.

He called the 211 hotline, waited on hold, and was disconnected.

The source of Webb’s anxiety, it turns out, was a six-minute lag updating the state website, leaving many staring for agonizing minutes at “PHASE 1B: Scheduling Began on 1/22/2021 at 8:00AM” in thick red type. Webb successfully registered by 8:43.

The first appointments will be scheduled for Tuesday. Scheduling will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, so registrants should monitor their email and click on the link as soon as they receive the email. Appointments will be scheduled out as far as necessary, and everyone who registers during this phase will be able to schedule an appointment, a department spokesperson said.

What happens after that remains in flux, depending on how much vaccine the state receives every week and how many people want to sign up.

The state has been getting about 17,000 doses per week. At that rate, vaccinating the entire Phase 1b group would take until late May. The state’s current plan calls for starting the next phase in March, however, and state officials expect the vaccine supply to increase soon.

The Valley News and Concord Monitor contributed to this report.

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