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Registration Opens Thursday For Cleveland's First Mass Vaccination Site

Registration opens Thursday, March 11 for appointments at the new mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Bert L. and Iris S. Wolstein Center on Cleveland State University's campus. The clinic starts Wednesday, March 17. [Google Maps]
Registration opens Thursday, March 11 for appointments at the new mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Bert L. and Iris S. Wolstein Center on Cleveland State University's campus. The clinic starts Wednesday, March 17. [Google Maps]

More COVID-19 vaccine appointments are coming soon as registration for Ohio's first mass vaccination clinic in Cleveland opens Thursday, according to state officials.

Those eligible can register for the clinic at the Wolstein Center on Cleveland State University's campus starting Thursday through the state's centralized scheduling tool.

A DeWine spokesman could not confirm what time registration will open. DeWine said last week the clinic could administer 6,000 vaccinations per day.

Cleveland-area residents can also call the United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 COVID-19 vaccine phone line for help registering.

Many frustrated Northeast Ohioans are turning to the 2-1-1 helpline as they are struggling to find appointments, said Franco Formichelli, director of the 2-1-1 HelpLink at United Way.

2-1-1 staff are fielding about 900 calls per day, he said.

“We put in their address, we pull up the sites, and we help them register,” Formichelli said. “If there’s nothing available, then there’s a waitlist we can put them on so that their name is out there.”

Call center staff direct people who live in the Cleveland city limits to the city’s health department, he said, while they can assist those who live outside the city in Cuyahoga County find a provider near them.


Learn more about the United Way's 2-1-1 vaccine hotline in the audio player above.

Since the line opened Jan. 25, 2-1-1 staff members have learned some tips and tricks for scheduling vaccines, Formichelli said.

Pharmacies and hospital appointments fill up fast early in the week, he said, so it often can be tough to find a shot, he said.

“Check on Sundays, as early as you can on Sunday,” Formichelli said. “For the most part, the doses that are out there are pretty much scheduled probably by Wednesday at the latest.”

If there are no appointments available, 2-1-1 staff can also put people on a waiting list at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, where extra doses sometimes open up later on in the week, he said.

“The county does a callout to people, like, ‘the doses are open, call 2-1-1,’” Formichelli added. “That’s how we help support the county when the county’s doses are available.” 

Staff members have also found Discount Drug Marts tend to take more registrations up front than Marc’s and Giant Eagle pharmacies, he said.

“If we can get them on a Drug Mart, we get them on a Drug Mart. We would use the county as a last possibility… if we couldn’t find anything locally for them at a pharmacy, then we’d put them on that list,” he added.

Still, sometimes people have to be patient and wait on a call back from 2-1-1 staff, or try again in a few weeks, he said.

Some have criticized the state’s new scheduling tool,as people still have to go to multiple websites to actually schedule an appointment.

“There is some frustration out there,” Formichelli said of residents who call 2-1-1 for help.

Nancy Mendez, vice president of community investment at United Way, is optimistic that more appointments will open up soon due to an increase in Ohio’s vaccine supply, as well as the upcoming mass vaccination clinic at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.

“I’m feeling really positive that we’re learning more about how to register mass groups of people quickly, and the supply is starting to increase,” she said.

The United Way's 2-1-1 phone line staff are fielding hundreds of calls about COVID vaccine scheduling every day. [ chainarong06 / Shutterstock]

The United Way recently brought on seven additional staff members for the vaccine-specific hotline in anticipation of another increase in calls once the Wolstein clinic opens Mar. 17, Formichelli said.

The COVID vaccine-specific 2-11 line was created in partnership with Cuyahoga County officials in January after residents reported confusion finding appointments through the Ohio Department of Health’s online dashboard, or were not able to sign up for the vaccine sites due to not having Internet access.

Since then, staff have taken more than 28,700 vaccine-related calls, Formichelli said.

The dedicated COVID vaccine hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while the general 2-1-1 phone line is open 24/7.

When a person calls 2-1-1, they can press option #3 to be connected to the vaccine-specific line, officials said.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.