“Nobody was ready for this. Right? We had no precedent,” said Lisa Tepper Bates.
Bates, the president and CEO of the United Way of Connecticut spoke to NBC Connecticut while more people were getting trained to help pick up calls for the COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Assistance phone line, run by the nonprofit in partnership with the state.
It was created on January 14 to help folks eligible to get a vaccine, like those 75-years-older, but who were struggling to help sign up online.
“For people who due to a lack of access to technology or due to a disability or language barrier, that’s who we’re most wanted to help with this resource,” said Bates.
When the phone line was created, United Way had 25 people on the job.
Twelve days later, they'll soon have 125 specialists trained to help with the signup process.
Again, they do ask folks to try signing up online first by using this new map tool recently created to make the state's online sign-up process easier. Enter a zip code into the box that says "If you are eligible, find a vaccinination site."
“People have been under a lot of stress, so we take our role very seriously, but the challenge is trying to get to everybody as quickly as we can,” said Bates, explaining her excitement to bring on more people, 75 more as of last Friday.
The number for help is 877-918-2224. It’s currently open weekdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., but they’re looking to expand the hours. Service is available in other languages.
But those at United Way want to remind folks that this phone line is completely separate from their 211 hotline, which helps people dealing with health and human service issues like mental health crisis and food, employment and tax assistance, among other things.
So organizers implore you to not clog up the 211 phone line if you’re looking for help to make a vaccination appointment. You'll be transferred to the other line, only increasing your wait time.
And while the state asks for patience for our vaccine supply, the United Way of CT does too as their service providers—people living in our communities---are trying their best to serve during these trying times.
“We appreciate the patience of our friends and neighbors in Connecticut knowing that it might be a little bit of a wait, but our staff is really doing our level best everyday by every single caller.”