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How to get help making a COVID vaccine appointment

Some counties allow you to make an appointment over the phone if you don't have a computer.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — We all know vaccine appointments are hard to get right now, especially if you don't have internet access at home.

Even if you do, you have to be online right when the appointments become available, so we wanted to see what other options are out there.

Let's start with Erie County, where supply issues have forced the county to cancel its clinics for Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 2 On Your Side asked the Erie County Department of Health if there are plans to help people in the 65-plus age group get appointments in Phase 1B if they don't have a computer at home.

A spokesperson told 2 On Your Side that by direct instruction from the state, pharmacies are charged with vaccinating people 65 and older. She also said the Erie County DOH "has plans for a dedicated vaccine call center to help with vaccine appointment scheduling for people who do not have access to the internet or who have difficulty navigating an online registration.

"We also will have a mobile RV unit available for more localized vaccine distribution, again once the supply is more readily available."

Since Erie County is not scheduling new appointments right now, the call center isn't open yet. 

Meanwhile, in Genesee County and Orleans counties, you can get help over the phone if you don't have internet at home. If you want to make an appointment in either of these counties for the COVID-19 vaccine and can't do it online, you need to call your county's Office for the Aging.

For Genesee County, call 585-813-2457 for COVID-19 vaccine assistance between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and leave a message so you can get a call back.

For Orleans County, call 585-589-3191 between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and leave a message if you get voicemail. Someone will return the call. Just know that the staff can only help you as appointments pop up.

If you want to make an appointment with Niagara County, you can call 211 for help seven-days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

In Allegany County, the supply is very limited, but you can call the Office for the Aging at 585-268-9390 to be added to their waiting list and for help making online appointments when the COVID-19 vaccine is available at an Allegany County clinic.

Remember, you can also get the vaccine at a pharmacy if you're 65 or older.

We asked State Senator Sean Ryan what can be done to make scheduling easier.

"We're asking the state department of health to set up phone line services, especially for this vulnerable population of seniors who have the hardest time navigating this system. I've received several calls from constituents who said they had to do the form for their parents or their grandparents because they weren't able to navigate it," Senator Ryan said.

Senator Ryan is also worried about people who don't have family members to help them. He is getting lots of calls from seniors trying to fill out the state's vaccination forms online and is very critical of how the state set up its online system.

"I was on the phone with Dr. Zucker, who is the commissioner of the State Department of Health last week. Promised answers by the end of this week. We are waiting for those answers, but they know it. They've been hearing loud and clear from around New York State that there's problems with this system, and we're expecting them to fix it," Ryan said.

The NYS Department of Health has not released a list of immunocompromised medical conditions that would qualify someone for Phase 1B. BUFFALO, N.Y. - On January 12, New York State announced it would be opening up Phase 1B of vaccine distribution to people 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised.

2 On Your Side asked the State Department of Health on Thursday  if there were plans to help people.

A spokesperson told us the state launched a callback function, a line that expedites seniors, and more staff this week.   

He also said "People can make an appointment through the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). Eligible essential workers should contact their union or local health department for information."  

That call center got about 60,000 calls Wednesday.

Just to compare, if you go to Pennsylvania's Department of Health website, there's a dot for every place you can get the vaccine. It is either green or red to let you know if they have it in stock, and all of the contact information you need to sign up is right there for you on that one streamlined website.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a lot of people who go there for the winter are getting vaccinated there, but the governor does not want people just flying there to get vaccinated, then flying home.