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Answering your COVID-19 vaccine questions with 3News Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins

Ohio's vaccine situation is a confusing mess right now. We've heard your complaints and try to help answer your questions.

CLEVELAND — On Tuesday, those Ohioans 80 years of age and older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the state's Phase 1B category. 

However, the situation is causing confusion for many people in our area. Some providers have not gotten their doses yet, while others don't have their websites ready to take registrations. 

Senior health correspondent Monica Robins put together a list of the most common questions you've had as we sort through the chaos together.  

The website I went to doesn’t have a place to register. 

Many providers are still working on their sites to get them up and running. On our vaccine guide, we link you to the state’s comprehensive guide of providers. It also includes phone numbers, so you may try calling to get scheduled. Keep in mind, national chain pharmacies, such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid are not giving vaccines in Ohio yet. Discount Drug mart, Marc’s and Giant Eagle have several locations, but Giant Eagle’s online registration will not activate until 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning and they’ll start vaccines on Thursday. 

When I register will I get my appointment at the same time? 

No. Registering just means you’re holding your place in line. As vaccine comes in, providers will contact those who registered and are eligible, per state guidelines, to schedule appointments for both shots.   

I don’t have a computer, what should I do? 

Call the United Way’s 211 helpline. They will be able to put you in contact with your county health department to help you get registered. Otherwise, you may try contacting your preferred pharmacy or the hospital system you use and ask if they can give you some assistance.     

I’m 72, and I registered, will I get my appointment scheduled next week for the 75 and up group?  

It depends where you’ve registered. Because we’re limited on vaccine, some places will not get to the next age group until the previous one is finished. That’s why you should register at more than one place to give yourself some options. Each provider manages its own schedule and appointments. 

Is the vaccine free? 

The federal government is paying for the vaccine, but some providers may bill health insurers for administering the inoculation.  

Why are some people allowed to cut in line? 

No one is allowed, to cut in line, but yes there have been and will be people getting vaccines outside the designated group. The cases are rare, but the most common reason is that there were extra doses available that would have spoiled if not used. The vaccines are frozen at ultra-cold temperatures for delivery and storage then thawed for injection. One vaccine goes bad after five days if unused. We’ve heard reports of some states throwing vaccine away because it went bad. Our health facilities are determined not to let that happen. So this is a really good reason not to miss that valuable appointment if and when you get one.   

The bottom line

I’m not going to candy coat it. This vaccine situation is a confusing mess and as it evolves things are going to change.  

COVID-19 vaccines are available at only 752 places in the entire state of Ohio. They are available by appointment only. To get an appointment you must register with a provider, which could be the hospital system you use, health department or participating pharmacy.  

Each place gets a different amount of vaccine, which dictates how many appointments they can schedule each week.   

The easiest way to register is online at the various provider websites, but some aren’t even up and running yet. Registration only gets you a place in line.  The provider will have to contact you to schedule your appointment.  You will be scheduled for your first and second shot appointment at once.   

Depending how much vaccine Ohio gets will determine how soon providers can get through the 80 and over crowd. So even though 75 and up will start next week, some places may not be through the first age group. Each facility manages its own schedule so when you get your appointment could depend on where you live and how much supply is available.   

If you do not have access to a computer, call the United Way 211 helpline. They can at least connect you to your local health department and some may help you register.  

I’ll keep finding answers for you and hopefully in the coming weeks, this system will get much smoother. So keep that mask up, distance and handwashing, and add in a little patience if you can.   

Helpful links:

More COVID-19 vaccine coverage:

You can watch Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 briefing from Tuesday below