Summit County switching to lottery for COVID-19 vaccine scheduling

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– Across the country and Ohio, eligible people are becoming increasingly frustrated as they try to get a COVID-19 vaccine

The demand is so overwhelming that one Northeast Ohio county health department is resorting to a lottery system to schedule vaccine appointments.

“We have a list of about 110,000 folks that we’re going to just randomly, use a random number generator and find, and just send an email out,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

Skoda said starting March 1, anyone registered and eligible to receive a COVID vaccine through the health department will have their appointment scheduled by a new lottery system. Until now, the county’s system would open up at noon every Tuesday for people to call or go online to set a date to receive their shot.

“We would release our few slots that we had… Maybe three, four, or 500 appointments and then we would have 13,000 phone calls and web contacts hit the system and crash it,” she said.

Skoda said the system was so overwhelmed that some people would show up, thinking they had scheduled an appointment, when they had not. She said the switch to a lottery scheduling system will not delay when someone can get their vaccine, but make the process more efficient.

“It’s a less chaotic way of handling it, so that we don’t have all these people hitting the system at once… Because what would happen is, people would just keep calling and calling and dialing and dialing and dialing. And I don’t blame them, they want the vaccine, but it’s just the sheer numbers,” said the health commissioner.

Skoda said the public can register on the health department website at any time and each week the lottery will randomly choose eligible people from the list. The number will depend on how many doses are available.

“We even got a little more this week than we were expecting, so we’re hopeful… The governor’s office told us there’s a good chance that we will see more vaccine starting to flow to Ohio,” she said.

Summit County health officials said they are encouraged that so many residents want the COVID vaccine. So far, about 12 percent of the county has received it.

“We’re very hopeful that with more vaccine, a lottery system won’t be necessary,” she said.

The lottery scheduling system is only for people getting vaccinated through Summit County Public Health one of several dozens of vaccine providers. Anyone who is already registered on their website does not need to re-register.

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