Mon | Aug 2, 2021

Vaccine hotline rings off the hook on day one

Published:Tuesday | March 23, 2021 | 12:20 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter
Juliet Holness, member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural and wife of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, gets her COVID-19 shot from public health nurse Fiona Ellis at the Good Samaritan Inn on Monday.
Juliet Holness, member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural and wife of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, gets her COVID-19 shot from public health nurse Fiona Ellis at the Good Samaritan Inn on Monday.

Calls to the toll-free (888) ONE-LOVE telephone line spiked approximately 25 per cent on the first day of COVID-19 vaccination registration for persons 75 and older, said itelbpo CEO Yoni Epstein. The Government is banking on high interest in take-...

Calls to the toll-free (888) ONE-LOVE telephone line spiked approximately 25 per cent on the first day of COVID-19 vaccination registration for persons 75 and older, said itelbpo CEO Yoni Epstein.

The Government is banking on high interest in take-up for the coronavirus shot in order to achieve herd immunity among two-thirds of the population. That could be crucial in blunting high levels of vaccine hesitancy nationwide.

“We have fielded over 3,000 calls today alone up to three o’clock,” Epstein told The Gleaner on Monday.

The call centre not only facilitates vaccine registration but responds to enquiries about testing sites and the JamCOVID website.

Epstein said persons have been calling since last week when the registration date and information was announced, even before the portal opened. But he said that yesterday alone, “the volume is greater than what was expected”.

The BPO will be doubling the number of agents taking calls today and Wednesday from the 20 operators employed since March 2020 to provide COVID-19 support via the hotline. Epstein said that his firm would continue to make adjustments to meet the service standards as time progresses.

“We will continue to be hiring additional people as we continue to see the volumes. I think today and the next few days are going to be a mad rush,” he said.

Executive chairman of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), Jean Lowrie-Chin, said that her lobby has been calling to confirm the registration of the more than 2,000 members who submitted their information.

She disclosed that some calls to verify registration went unanswered as the lines were busy.

“The minister did announce last night that they were, so we are just hoping for the best,” she said of Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton’s comments at a Jamaica House press briefing.

CCRP has a broad membership of around 10,000 seniors.

There are approximately 350,000 people 60 years and older in Jamaica, said Dr Denise Eldemire Shearer, professor of public health and patron of the National Council for Senior Citizens.

In the meantime, Epstein is imploring persons to try signing up using the Ministry of Health & Wellness website if the lines are busy. He said that itelbpo has also been receiving calls from people younger than 75 trying to register for appointments.

Registration brings relief

Michelle Hemans, 48, said she was relieved to be able register her 79-year-old father, Joseph Hemans, on Monday. Mr Hemans, who has arthritis, hypertension, and a heart condition, is among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

However, the phone lines were busy and Ms Hemans was unable to get her dad in the queue for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Donald Beale, 75, said he is not computer savvy and is depending on a relative in the healthcare sector to assist him in registering for the jab.

“I have been mentally prepared,” he said, adding that he also needs his relative for moral support as he is afraid of needles.

One caregiver is allowed to accompany each person on the day of vaccination. Candidates should present a valid government-issued ID or a letter from a justice of the peace verifying their age.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com