MICHIGAN CITY — More than 250,000 Indiana residents 70 and older have scheduled appointments to receive the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a program that started just days ago.

The total includes more than 125,000 individuals 70-79 who scheduled vaccines Wednesday, the first day of eligibility. It does not include Hoosiers being vaccinated in long-term care facilities.

The overwhelming response to the vaccinations has state health officials pleased, but many residents frustrated.

“We are gratified by high interest in vaccine registration for our most vulnerable Hoosiers and encourage everyone to be patient,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said, while acknowledging that some people may experience delays trying to register.

“We anticipated these scenarios on the first day and have a system in place to address them as quickly as possible.”

The only way to schedule an appointment is by the state’s 211 phone line or at https://ourshot.in.gov – both are being overwhelmed by the response.

The website has been unavailable at times due to high demand, while wait times on the phone line can be more than an hour.

Anyone experiencing issues with registration is urged to continue to check back throughout the day, Box said. The website is designed to put visitors into a holding queue when volume is high.

That can contribute to longer wait times or an error message, she said, but Hoosiers should be able to check back at a later time to access the system.

So while La Porte County residents can schedule vaccinations at Franciscan Health Michigan City or at the La Porte County Fairgrounds, making the appointment can be frustrating.

Chris Yagelski, spokesman for Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry, addressed the issue Thursday on the My Michigan City page on Facebook.

“I know that it is very difficult right now to get through and understand the current testing,” Yagelski wrote. “To register and obtain an appointment you must do one of two things.”

The first is OurShot.in.gov and “There you can get confused,” he wrote, explaining that visitors to the site must click on “Find a Vaccination Site” on the top bar to get a drop down box where they should click on La Porte County.

“Once there please select Franciscan Hospital where it will then take you to a verification page of your age and eligibility. You will then be shown the locations that are available for appointments and they have been filling up quickly so you may need to revisit this site to get a close location.”

The second alternative is to call 1-866-211-9966 and voice prompts guide you through the registration process.

“The unfortunate thing is they are very overwhelmed, too, and you will be put in a waiting room indicating your wait time. These times can be up to an hour so please be patient.”

He acknowledged the frustration, but added, “I promise that the above phone number works!”

Yagelski also said he has visited the Fairgrounds site and, “they are very professional, organized, efficient and helpful. Please be patient and we will all get through this together!”

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias called Yagelski’s statements “very helpful” and also urged patience.

“Yes, the State of Indiana’s reservation system is definitely not working well at this moment,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Not government at its finest, that’s for sure. The State Health Dept. is in close communication with the LP County Health Department and they’re working on the issues.”

She agreed that the vaccination site at the fairgrounds is “running smoothly and efficiently – so many hard-working people to thank for that effort,” she wrote.

“The state systems are having trouble keeping up with the pace, but we will get through this using the same tools we have been using over the last year – communication, care for one another and persistence.”

Individuals 70 and older account for about 11 percent of the state’s population but 42 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 78 percent of deaths, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Eligible Hoosiers can also contact one of the Area Agencies on Aging. A caregiver or loved one also may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior.

Vaccines are free, but your insurance may be charged an administrative fee. Appointments for the second dose will be made at the clinic when the first dose is administered.

A list of who is currently eligible to receive vaccine is posted at ourshot.in.gov. Additional groups will be added as more vaccine becomes available.

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