Portland Area Website Freezes As Masses Try To Snag Vaccine Appointments

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Many Portland area residents who became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations Monday morning after months of patiently waiting their turns encountered a new frustration: a scheduling website that wouldn’t let them book appointments.

Leagues of people 16 and older with underlying conditions and frontline workers visited an appointment scheduling website for Portland International Airport’s drive-through at 9 a.m. Monday, only to discover that the website repeatedly froze up, displayed computer coding instead of appointment times or offered them appointment times but wouldn’t let proceed through the booking process.

Some visitors clearly did get through because new appointments were all taken within 30 minutes.

The Oregonian/OregonLive sent a list of questions to Oregon Health & Science University, which operates the scheduling website and the drive-through at the airport. Representatives said they would respond with answers as soon as possible.

Some people took to social media to express their exasperation. Using the hashtag “#wasteoftime”, one Twitter wrote OHSU: “Why does your website say I’m eligible to get a #vaccine and to make an appointment, then lead me to a webpage where I can’t make an appointment?”

Another problem: OHSU’s website didn’t accurately list all underlying conditions that now allow anyone age 16 or older to book an appointment. OHSU’s list didn’t include two conditions -- general hypertension not specifically in the lungs or being overweight, defined as a body mass index of 25 or higher. In order to schedule an appointment, a person needs to affirm to having one of the underlying conditions that OHSU lists -- and its list was missing these two very common conditions.

Officials at the Oregon Health Authority have said they’re unable to specify the number of Oregonians who are now eligible for vaccinations as part of its latest group, “Group 7.” But the group clearly numbers in the multiple hundreds of thousands.

It includes anyone 16 to 44 with a wide range of underlying conditions, including a compromised immune system or past or current smoking.

Also newly eligible are people in multigenerational households, which state officials define as at least three generations such as children, parents and grandparents living together. Officials also define multigenerational households as a relative living with and caring for someone who is not their child, such as a niece, nephew or grandchild.

Many frontline workers also have gotten the green light -- and anyone living in their households is now eligible, too.

Oregon has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of frontline workers. It includes people who work in grocery and retail stores, restaurants, vocational and trade schools, universities, community colleges, real estate, hotels, construction including contractors, energy extraction and delivery, gas stations, public transit, the U.S. Postal Service, beverage manufacturing, banking, child protective services, public health, news media, government, members of the Oregon Legislature and court staff as well as judges and attorneys. A full list is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/categories-essential-workers.html.

In the Portland area that encompasses Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Columbia counties, you have three primary options:

Visit www.ohsu.edu/covidvaccines at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays to book appointments at the drive-through lots at Portland International Airport or Hillsboro Stadium. So you’re next chance of booking one at one of OHSU’s drive-through site appears to be Tuesday. OHSU says people who don’t have internet access can call 833-647-8222 to book an appointment.

Register at getvaccinated.oregon.gov, which will enter you into a lottery. The state will send randomly selected names of people who’ve registered to the operators of the indoor mass vaccination site at the Oregon Convention Center in Northeast Portland. Those on the lists will be sent emails or texts with links that allow them to book appointments.

Go to vaccinefinder.org, which will provide links to pharmacies with available appointments. Or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov and click on “Vaccine Information by County” to learn if you can book appointments in other areas of the state. The state fairgrounds, for one, is vaccinating thousands of Oregonians each week regardless of their counties of residence.

If you have questions, call 211 for help.

-- Aimee Green; [email protected]; @o_aimee

This story was first published by The Oregonian/OregonLive and is posted here through a coronavirus-related content sharing agreement among a dozen media outlets in Oregon.

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