PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As part of Oregon’s Phase 1B in the vaccination distribution plan, people 80 years and older are now eligible to get vaccinated — but the Oregon Health Authority leaders are warning that this latest phase could be “chaotic.”

The OHA says the biggest challenge for them is the scarcity of the vaccine. While they can’t give every older adult an appointment as soon as they want one — they can give them different ways to get linked to vaccine information and events.

Recently, KOIN 6 reported that 211 is swamped. While the amount of staff is being increased, they’ll always be outnumbered if tens of thousands of calls are coming in.

Only about 5000 appointments statewide were available for sign-up — about 3% of those eligible, based on the supply of the vaccine.

While some seniors booked appointments on the OHA website, others called 211 to get phone help scheduling. But they found a long wait or an even longer wait for a call back.

One North Portland resident, Maureen, got a call back Monday.

Maureen, a senior in North Portland, said she had to wait days for a callback for a COVID vaccine appointment, February 8, 2021 (KOIN)

“I was a little surprised. Been trying to do this forever,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It’s just been every day, get up early, make the call, try to get through and hope you can make the appointment.

Maureen, who doesn’t have internet access, called 211 for several days. She left her information and talked with live operators who booked her appointment for the week after next.

Other seniors said getting help from tech-savvy friends or neighbors is quite helpful.

The best way to not overwhelm the system? OHA launched a new web tool on their website, which will allow you to register to get email alerts or text notifications about vaccine events in your area.

Get Vaccinated Oregon

The tool is open for all Oregonians and is available in 11 languages. OHA launched the Get Vaccinated Oregon tool Monday afternoon.

The site is not for making vaccine appointments — but if you sign up for alerts, it will let you know what locations to reach out to as they get vaccine shipments in the future.

Have a question about the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Check out the website below.
  2. Text ORCOVID to 898211 to get text/SMS updates (English and Spanish only)
  3. Email ORCOVID@211info.org (All languages)

If you can’t find the answer on the website, by text, or by email:

  1. Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, including holidays. Please be aware that wait times may be longer due to high call volumes. There is an option to get a call back rather than wait on hold. (Languages spoken: English and Spanish. Free interpretation available for all other languages.)
    • TTY: Dial 711 and call 1-866-698-6155

Find the new vaccine notification tool here

For this week, the OHA has allotted just shy of 20,000 doses to the group of 80 and older. As of right now, the OHA doesn’t think the vaccination of prisoners is going to get in the way of vaccinating teachers and older people.

But, they say it’s all dependent upon weekly vaccine supply from the federal government.

KOIN 6 News will continue to provide updates.