The process for signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine was smooth for many, rocky for a few, but ultimately successful for more than 147,000 New Hampshire residents on Friday.
Despite reports of stumbles in the first minutes after a new state website went live at 8 am Friday, it appears there were no major technological issues with vaccines.nh.gov, the online portal for registering. The state’s hotline for making appointments, 2-1-1, experienced busy signals and dropped calls early Friday, but by midday was experiencing wait times of around 25 minutes. By afternoon, hold times were closer to just three minutes, according to the state.
“I had to refresh a few times to get into the website beginning at 8,” said Sarah Brown of Bow. “It was probably five or six minutes before I got in. From there, it was an easy process to register.”
With the kick off of Phase 1B in the state, all residents aged 65 and older are now able to register for vaccines. So are people younger than 65 who have two or more serious medical conditions, though that group must schedule appointments through their health care provider.
More than 20,000 users registered within the first 20 minutes of going live Friday, according to the state. By early afternoon, that number topped 147,000 people.
“Today’s roll-out exceeded expectations and the teams across state government deserve immense credit for their role in making today such a great success,” said Gov. Chris Sununu in a statement. “Based on preliminary sign-ups, we will be ready to hit the ground running and will vaccinate the hundreds of thousands of folks in Phase 1B as quickly as the federal government delivers it.”
After completing the multi-step online registration process, which included questions about vaccine allergies, users were told they will receive an email within three to five days with a link to schedule an appointment. That's a change from the 24-hour turnaround the state announced earlier in the week.
“I’m hopeful, I’m realistic, and I’m still wearing my mask,” said Cathy Arredondo of Weare, who completed the registration online and is now awaiting a scheduling email.
There will be 12,000 vaccine appointments per week available through the end of March, with vaccines administered at 13 different fixed locations around the state. Appointments for the necessary second dose of the vaccine will be made onsite after receiving the first dose.
Bob Hart, 82, of Lee said after struggling with the 2-1-1 phone line, he was able to successfully use the state’s website to make an appointment.
“I got through it,” he said with a laugh.
More than 300 state employees as well as members of the New Hampshire National Guard were brought on to help with the expected high call volume.
Along with residents 65 and older and medically vulnerable individuals, staff at New Hampshire’s prisons and jails are now eligible for vaccinations in Phase 1B, as well as residents and staff of facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The first vaccines for this phase are slated to be administered Tuesday, Jan. 26.
The state continues to receive rouhly 17,000 to 18,000 doses of the vaccine each week from federal suppliers. With more than 300,000 residents now eligible, it is expected to take months to complete Phase 1B, depending on how many people opt to get the vaccination.