Snagging a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in Oregon has been compared to competing in “The Hunger Games,” being first in line for a Black Friday doorbuster or securing a summertime beachfront campsite the instant the state opens them for booking.
The strong, nimble and lucky are victorious. Others lose out.
On Thursday, Portland area seniors vying for appointments made 400,000 attempts to book a very limited number of appointments: 3,400 that were available for scheduling at the city’s two mass vaccination clinics — causing a widespread slow down. Many users couldn’t get web pages to load or repeatedly clicked on appointment times to find out seconds or even minutes later that someone else had booked them. Most seniors ultimately missed out before the appointments were all gone in less than 90 minutes.
That led the Oregon Health Authority and the Portland area health care providers who run the mass vaccination sites to dramatically change the way the public schedules appointments.
Instead of madly competing for appointments at set times each week, seniors who want to book at the Oregon Convention Center will enter their names into a registry once, then be notified when it’s their turn to get an appointment.
Mobility-impaired seniors who want an appointment at the Portland International Airport’s drive-thru in the red economy lot will still need to compete online or by phone at set times each week.
The next opportunity is Monday at 9 a.m.
Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need to know about scheduling a coveted appointment:
First, the basics: Am I eligible?
On Monday, March 1, all seniors 65 and older will be eligible, along with educators and health care workers. On Friday, state officials announced the next wave of eligible Oregonian, including those ages 45 and older who have underlying medical conditions, agricultural workers, employees in food processing and people who are homeless. They will be eligible no later than March 29, state officials say.
If you’re in the Portland area, seniors wanting appointments at the Convention Center should go to getvaccinated.oregon.gov and click the blue “Get Started” box to register. Although the website as of Saturday hadn’t yet been updated to explain the new process, the Oregon Health Authority says it will create a registry of eligible seniors and then notify them when their turn comes up. This is intended to avoid the long hours many, many seniors have invested in unsuccessfully trying to book appointments.
The state will randomly select seniors from the list, ages 65 and older, then send the list to the health care providers that run the Convention Center’s vaccination clinic. This Monday, the Convention Center’s call center will contact 1,900 eligible residents to schedule them for vaccination appointments that start Wednesday.
Those who’ve been selected for the 1,900 appointments will receive a text message notifying them and a call from a representative who will schedule them, said Tamara Hargens-Bradley, a spokeswoman for the Portland area’s mass vaccination clinics.
The Convention Center clinic is held indoors and organizers say be prepared to stay one to two hours. Those who haven’t been able to do that have been offered wheelchairs.
Note: Officials say the public no longer will be able to schedule appointments using the old system of going to covidvaccine.oregon.gov and using the chat tool. But as of Saturday, the website and the chat tool weren’t notifying visitors that a new system was in place, and a “Schedule now” button still allowed visitors to check for appointments.