Seniors hold on phone for hours to schedule COVID vaccination

Many seniors are experiencing long wait times and overwhelmed websites as they try to make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Friday, some Kaiser patients calling the vaccination hotline heard the recorded message: "We are unable to schedule a COVID vaccine appointment right now due to limited availability."

While some Sutter Health patients on the vaccination hotline heard a different recorded message: "Thank you for calling Sutter Health. We have reached our current call capacity at this time."    

The healthcare provider says its call centers and online bookings tool are experiencing delays and longer than normal wait times.

"Sutter is prioritizing the state’s most vulnerable populations including those who are 75-plus years of age and our community health care workers because they are at greatest risk according to CDC guidance. As vaccine supply and appointment capacity expands, we will broaden eligibility and notify our patients," Sutter Health said in a released statement. "We share in the excitement and hope that comes with the COVID-19 vaccine and are working extremely hard to meet eligible patients’ scheduling requests."

In Santa Clara County, only those 75 and up are able to get the vaccine, with the exception of Kaiser which is scheduling appointments for some in the 65 and up category.

"Problem we have at the end of the day is logistics. We don't have enough vaccines," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee.

Health officials say the biggest problem is an unpredictable supply.

"Due to this limited and unpredictable supply, we continue to need to limit eligibility for vaccination," said Dr. Jennifer Tong, Assoc. Chief Medical Officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

County Counsel James Williams blames the state and federal government for a lack of clarity and what he calls a "chaos of information flow" surrounding the vaccine.

"Without knowing in advance what supply is coming in, it makes it extraordinarily hard to map this out," said Williams.

Meanwhile the county vaccination numbers are going up.

According to the latest data this week, Santa Clara County has received 110,000 first doses and administered about 52,000 or 47%.

The county says it alone has ramped up vaccines this week and is at the point where they are vaccinating 6,000 people a day.

Inside the atrium in front of the Santa Clara County Elections Office, people are now being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Berger Avenue location is one of two mass vaccination sites, launched in the county.

The second is at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, with a third unidentified site with greater capacity opening in Mountain View next week.

As for getting an appointment, that takes patience.

A San Jose woman told KTVU she was able to make a vaccination appointment after she waited for four hours on the phone with Kaiser.

She says she was grateful to get an appointment later this month at Kaiser's Vallejo location.

Santa Clara County is referring anyone who wants to make an appointment to visit:

On the website, it details the different providers, along with phone numbers and websites for vaccination information.