Michigan health director says to call 211 for vaccine appointments, but callers say it’s not working

Vaccinations still difficult to find, schedule

The first case confirmed case of coronavirus in Michigan was announced March 10, 2020. Many people have expressed frustration with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Michigan, as well as setting up an appointment.

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is strategizing on how to make sure every resident is vaccinated quickly.

Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday for emergency approval of its vaccine -- the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.

If approved, there would be a third vaccine option and more doses available to residents.

Michigan senior residents have been struggling to receive their vaccines. People 60-years-old and older account for 24% of the confirmed cases in Michigan but are 90% of the confirmed deaths.

READ: Michigan coronavirus data: Tracking case count, cases by county, deaths, cases by age, tests

The MDHHS laid out its plan on how it decides where the vaccines go as they are received from the federal government. There are 15 factors and variables in the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI).

That formula seems to be failing seniors.

READ: Michigan’s race to get everyone vaccinated leaves some senior citizens behind

When asked for the most simple way for seniors to schedule a vaccination, Local 4 was told they should call 211.

“We would recommend that they contact 211,” said MDHHS director Elizabeth Hertel. “And work with 211 to help facilitate either making an appointment or being able to make it onto a waiting list to make an appointment.”

When asked if 211 was up and running Friday morning, Hertel said that it was.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also said 211 was an option to schedule a vaccination during Thursday’s press conference.

Sources told Local 4 that 211 has been swamped and have been unable to handle the call volume with many callers being directed to schedule online instead. One viewer said 211 gave them a recorded message that 211 was not scheduling vaccinations and another said the phone rang for 25 minutes with no answer.

One caller said they waited 57 minutes before they could speak with someone, who said they were directed to call the Michigan COVID Hotline at 1-888-535-6136 next week and they will try to connect to a county official to schedule a vaccination.

When reached for comment, a representative with the health department responded Friday afternoon with the following statement:

READ: Michigan COVID-19 vaccinations: How to find appointments, info on phases

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.