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Brenham man describes rocky process trying to register for Washington County subHUB vaccine

The Washington County OEM says hundreds of thousands of calls caused the system to crash for a period of time
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 10:19 PM CST
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BRENHAM, Texas (KBTX) - The registration process to secure a COVID-19 vaccine at the Washington County Fairgrounds subHUB location got off to a rocky start Monday morning. Hundreds of thousands of calls caused the system to crash, according to the Washington County OEM.

Brenham resident Walt Hoddinott says he was one of the 7,000 callers who called within the first minute of registration lines opening. He says he was ecstatic when he first heard news of a vaccination site coming to his county.

“If I get this [virus], well, I’m a dead man,” Hoddinott said.

Hoddinott is 65 years old and has a pre-existing condition. He has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and only 20% lung function. That’s why he made sure he dialed his first call right when registration opened at 8:00 a.m.

“Even from the very first call, it never went through,” Hoddinott said. “My phone came up saying line busy, and then hung up, but there was never a busy signal, and I did that probably every 30 seconds for five minutes.”

Hoddinott says he spent the better part of the next three hours dialing the 800 and local numbers, but got nowhere. He also continued calling in periodically throughout the afternoon, but still nothing.

In a registration update posted to Facebook, Washington County OEM said they received over 7,000 phone calls in the first minute after opening and over 600,000 in the first couple hours, causing their phone system to crash. It went on to say the issue was eventually resolved, and calls continued to be taken to schedule appointments.

5:20PM REGISTRATION UPDATE 1/18/21 All 2,000 vaccine slots are filled. For efficiency, we would like to remind those...

Posted by Washington County Office of Emergency Management on Monday, January 18, 2021

KBTX reached out to the Washington County OEM for comment with multiple phone calls and an email, but never heard back.

“This is the way the rollout has been going nationwide, and it’s just shameful,” Hoddinott said.

His experience Monday morning caused Hoddinott to lose faith in the registration process.

“I made sure I was up at 8 o’clock to start dialing, and it went nowhere,” Hoddinott said. “I understand there were only 2,000 doses available, so my hope of getting one now is pretty much dashed. This particular rollout I basically see as a fiasco and a failure.”

Hoddinott says he hopes the registration process is improved before the next round of doses become available so the system can handle the call volume it receives.

The Washington County OEM said in a 5:20 p.m. registration update to their Facebook page that all 2,000 slots had been filled. It’s unclear when the next shipment will arrive and how many doses will be available in it, but those interested in getting one should continue monitoring their Facebook page for future updates.

There’s more on the line for Hoddinott in getting the vaccine. It’s not just so his life can get back to a sense of normal. For him, it’s so he can survive.

“I haven’t worked since probably March or April, and if there’s anyone who needs this vaccine it’s me,” Hoddinott said. “I’m basically starving. I’m behind on my rent, and I survive on food banks. I’d really like to be able to work again someday, and I’m a little ashamed at the way the whole thing’s been handled. Too many people have already died, and I really don’t want to be one of them. I fear for it.”

For the latest updates on local COVID-19 vaccination sites and availability, click here.

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