Orm Irish, left, Pam Taylor and Joan Wing gather Saturday in Winthrop. Taylor said that she’d called 155 times and wasn’t able to get vaccination appointments. Wing also hadn’t been able to book an appointment, despite 65 attempts. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

WINTHROP — Pam Taylor called the coronavirus vaccine hotline 155 times Friday afternoon.

Taylor, 85 and a resident of Winthrop, was instructed to call the number sometime last week and was instructed to call between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. if she wanted to put her name on a list to get the vaccine.

She didn’t get through to an operator a single time.

“For the first hour, I just kept calling, and I would hang up and start again,” she said. “I gave up for a while and throughout the day, I tried more, and tried several times, and at the last time that I called, they said that they filled their spots.”

At 3 p.m., the same day that Taylor called, MaineGeneral posted on its website that over 400,000 people had called the number and that there were no spaces left on the vaccination list.

Website registration is not available, either.

MaineGeneral said it won’t be accepting registrations again until next week when “we will know if we are getting additional vaccine and how much we are receiving.”

The vaccine, and number of people that are able to get the vaccine, are dependent on the amount of vaccine doses that the state receives on a weekly basis. Individuals over the age of 70 are the age group that are permitted to get the vaccine thus far in the state.

Pam Taylor, 85, of Winthrop talks Saturday about not be able to get vaccination appointments. She attempted 155 calls but could not get through to anyone coordinating the vaccine clinic. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The closest vaccination site to the women is the MaineGeneral Vaccination Clinic in Augusta. In central Maine, only the Augusta clinic and MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville are administering the vaccine. In comparison, southern Maine has at least six locations for individuals to go to.

Taylor doesn’t think that it should be “this hard” to put her name on the list and to register for the vaccine.

“I had at least four people, friends of mine, tell me that they did the same thing and got nowhere, either,” she said of her attempts.

Taylor’s friend, Joan Wing, called the same line 65 times on Friday, not able to get through a single time.

She spent the whole day trying her luck.

“I called probably every 10 to 15 minutes for a good part of the morning, then continued, every so often,” Wing, 83, said. “I was getting discouraged and felt that so many people were going through and getting the same thing.”

Wing said that it would have been more effective if she and Taylor were able to leave their names on a list and then be able to expect a call when it was their turn to get the vaccine.

Even though website registration is not available, Wing does not own a computer and said that many friends her age don’t either.

“I don’t have any physical problems; I’m blessed that way and have half my wits about me,” Wing said. “But I think of the elderly folks that may get confused easily, or frustrated not being able to get through.”

Wing said that she knows people that have gotten the vaccine at the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta, including her partner.

Taylor said her partner received a call from the center a couple weeks ago and was able to schedule an appointment for the drive-thru clinic. He was able to stay in his car and get the vaccine through his window.

“That’s how it should be organized,” Taylor said. “Not by telling thousands of people to call. It’s stupid.”

Wing and Taylor don’t know what their next steps are but they are going to wait until next week when they are instructed to call again. On Saturday, MaineGeneral staff was not in the office to take questions on vaccine administering.

They hope that the vaccine will be able to bring them together, again.

“We (would) get together once a week, play cards and have a good time, lots of laughs, it’s always a good time,” Wing said. “That’s one of the things that I miss a lot. All of my friends.”

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