Answering your COVID-19 questions: ‘Is there a COVID-19 vaccine lottery in Ohio?’

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UC Health 1B Vaccinations 1.jpg
Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 15:34:00-05

As Ohio mobilizes local health departments to set up COVID-19 vaccination appointments, some folks in the Tri-State are finding it difficult to book a slot for their shot.

WCPO viewer Ann Shepard Rueve reached out on Facebook with that exact problem. Rueve says both she and a friend, who are the same age, registered for an appointment with Hamilton County Public Health on the same day.

Two weeks later, her friend has already received her first shot, but Ann still hasn’t received an appointment.

“Why is there a vaccine lottery?” she wrote. “I have called many, (including my) health providers, as well as retail pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Kroger. All have recorded messages that all slots are filled. I wish there was a better and more consistent system to get shots into 1b eligible people’s arms.”

Dr. Steve Feagins, medical director of Hamilton County Public Health and chief clinical officer at Mercy Health, explained how the behind-the-scenes process works -- and that it’s not lottery-based.

“When you put your name in, we have 14 contact tracers making those calls, and they work off a list,” Feagins said. “When a name is on the list, they work down the list -- independent of birthdays or anything like that. It is possible the contact tracer may have called and maybe was blocked or not picked up.”

He said contact tracers will always call from a Hamilton County Public Health number.

“So, if you see that, you know a real contact tracer is calling to either talk about contact tracing -- or better news: scheduling the vaccine,” he said.

Still, he said, the process requires patience from patients.

“There were 14 making calls when we first started, and we had 700 doses. It took 14 contact tracers four days to schedule 700 above (age) 80 for the vaccine, in part because of the length of the call," he said. "Individuals not talking to folks for a year wanted to talk, and we wanted to talk to them, and so they're wonderful calls, but each takes time.”

So if you get a call and don't pick up, will you lose your place in line?

Feagins said contact tracers will leave a message if you have voicemail set up. He also recommends you act on the message and follow its instructions.

“Be patient,” Feagins said. “We will get there.”

MORE: See if you're eligible, find where to sign up for a vaccine in the Tri-State

This month, WCPO 9 is taking your questions about COVID-19 vaccines and posing them to local health care experts. Email or message @KristynHartmanWCPO on Facebook with your name, neighborhood and question, and you could see an expert answer it on air.