Franklin County school employees struggle with scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments

NBC4 Investigates

COLUMBUS (WCMH)– Franklin County school employees were met with hours of obstacles Sunday as they tried to schedule an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Some said it took as long as 12 hours to reserve a spot.

Vaccinations for school employees begins Tuesday in Franklin County, along with several others in Ohio. Kroger is in charge of distributing doses and scheduling appointments for more than 15,000 educators at two vaccination sites over the course of one week.

Todd Lotz’s wife, who works at McVay Elementary School in Westerville, received a link to Kroger’s Health Portal around 8:00 a.m., Sunday morning to schedule her appointment. Lotz wasn’t able to book it until after 8:30 p.m. Sunday evening, despite having tried all day.

“Six phone calls to Kroger to inquire, five times getting hung up on, being blocked out, then told no dates available, or the wheel just kept spinning like it was waiting to pull up and never did,” Lotz said. “It became a point of going from frustration and anger, to determination. Like, yeah, I’m going to stick with this as long as possible.”

Multiple educators and school employees reached out to NBC4, reporting similarly long wait times to book a vaccine appointment in Franklin County. Some said when they finally got through to Kroger’s scheduling page, it said there were no appointments left.

Kroger confirmed Sunday that many duplicate appointments were booked, filling available slots.

Lotz called Kroger Monday and learned that his wife had three separate appointments.

Amy McCormick, a spokesperson for Kroger, said a “significant volume” of web traffic caused Sunday’s issues with the Health Portal. She said duplicate appointments were cancelled, allowing more than 14,300 Franklin County school employees to sign up to receive a vaccine as of Monday afternoon.

Lotz filed a complaint with Kroger Monday. He said the grocery chain gave him a $10 store credit and opening an investigation into Sunday’s five hang-ups.

Lotz, whose daughter is a third grade student at McVay, looks forward to having her in a classroom full-time. While he remains optimistic that it could happen in the coming weeks, Sunday left him with some concerns.

Without a clear-cut leadership and leadership being held accountable… it’s kind of we’re not as important as what leadership has portrayed to us,” Lotz said.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine, said the state is building a centralized web portal from the ground up to book vaccine appointments.

“Such solutions take weeks to develop,” Tierney wrote in an email, adding that the state is working “expeditiously.”

Tierney did not respond to follow-up questions relayed to a colleague about how long the state had been working on the web portal and when it might be available.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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