COVINGTON, Ky. — People with scheduled appointments were waiting in line outside the Northern Kentucky Convention Center Thursday for their turn to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but many left disappointed.
Kroger Co. said its vaccine hub in Covington, along with several other vaccination sites across Northern Kentucky, mistakenly took reservations from people who reside in Ohio, even though only Kentucky residents were eligible. The scheduling error allowed Ohio residents to make appointments for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
When the mix-up became apparent, it meant hundreds of people who had reserved a place in line lost their shot. It also meant the state had to request 1,000 additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from the federal government to make up for the overbookings.
While Kroger said in a statement that every senior sent home Thursday without a shot had their appointment rescheduled, Tim Ralph -- one of the Ohio residents who was allowed to make an appointment at the convention center -- said the ordeal left him discouraged and aggravated.
"You're telling me I have to have [the vaccine]. I have to wear a mask. I have to do this; I have to do that, but I can't even get the vaccine," he told WCPO.
Ohio continues to distribute the vaccine -- thousands of doses each week -- but competition for appointments has been fierce due to limited healthcare personnel to administer them.
When Ralph was able to make an appointment at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, he said he was relieved and was not made aware in the process that only Kentucky residents were eligible.
"I'm sitting there going, 'Oh, this was easy. This was great.' Little did I know that wasn't the case," he said.
Despite the scheduling error, Kroger and Gov. Andy Beshear's office did communicate throughout the week that only Kentucky residents are eligible. The convention center displayed the message on its electronic signs posted on the building's exterior surrounding the entrance.
But Ralph had driven 40 minutes to get there, he said, and he'd gotten no word prior to arriving there might be a problem.
"I never received word from anybody, nobody," he said. "I made no effort whatsoever to mislead anybody. I told them I was from Ohio," he said.
Once a crowd of Ohio residents had made it inside, organizers explained the situation and a Kenton County Sheriff's deputy asked them to leave. Beshear said Thursday any Ohioan who was allowed to make an appointment at a Northern Kentucky location for Friday or Saturday could keep their appointment and would receive their scheduled dose. He also said any Ohioan turned away Thursday would be contacted by Kroger to reschedule their appointment at that location for a later date.
As part of their written statement, Kroger officials said, "We have reached out to everyone who was turned away to reschedule their vaccination appointments. The aberration has been resolved and will not reoccur."
As of Friday, Ralph said he hadn't received a call from Kroger yet. WCPO asked Kroger about his situation specifically, and a spokesperson said Friday afternoon that they will reschedule his appointment. Meantime, Ralph said he is exploring other resources, as well.