As COVID-19 vaccines remain in high demand, the Tompkins County Health Department has created a registry to help eligible residents sign up for a vaccination appointment, prompting more than 7,000 signups in the first week.
The health department uses the registry to send links to schedule vaccine appointments to those who have registered and a vaccine becomes available. Frank Kruppa, the county public health director, said the site will help measure demand for the vaccine within different priority groups, including senior citizens and frontline workers, and help with their planning.
According to Kruppa, the county gave previously prioritized populations, such as first responders, corrections officers, public transportation and childcare workers, the opportunity to sign up for appointments again through the registry last week.
They are continuing to prioritize teachers, educators, and support staff, with the registry being opened up for higher education in-person instruction for the first time this week.
Tompkins County decided to start a registry in part because the state has reduced limitations on vaccine distribution, Kruppa said, allowing local health departments to begin vaccinating individuals with comorbidities and those over 65.
“We’ve actually already been able to use the registry this week, for our 1b populations, as well as those folks with comorbidities,” Kruppa told The Sun. “We’ve already been able to use it to directly send links to those eligible people for registration.”
Previously, Ithaca residents have expressed frustrations about the challenges of scheduling vaccine appointments — pointing to experiences with the website crashing and appointment slots filling up before residents can register.
Ithaca resident Sue Perlgut, who signed up for the registry with her husband, said she is excited about the potential for a smoother vaccination process.
“When the registry came out, I was thrilled. It was easy to fill out,” Perlgut said. “I have total faith in the county that they are going to follow up and make sure we are vaccinated.”
Those without internet access can still sign up for the registry by calling 211, a phone service that refers individuals to various resources including COVID information.
To increase registry access to under-served populations, Tompkins County is also partnering with nonprofit organizations through the Human Services Coalitions of Tompkins County, who works with nonprofits like the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency and United Way of Tompkins County.
“We’re trying to [use] grassroots efforts through those folks that serve those in our community that need the most extra support,” Kruppa said. “We’re hopeful that that [registry] will help and obviously we’ll continue to look at new and better ways to get the word out.”
While Kruppa said he is pleased with many people using the registry, he said he hopes that the registry won’t be necessary in the near future if the vaccine will be widely available enough that residents will no longer have to register ahead of time.