Bugs in new appointment system driving residents batty

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 13, 2021 3:27 PM CT | Published: March 13, 2021 4:00 AM CT

VRAS, the new state system for scheduling vaccines may be great for getting appointments simultaneously for both doses and finding the nearest shot location, but it’s definitely not working for hundreds of Shelby County residents who got a first dose ahead of schedule and are now are trying to schedule a second.

Doctor’s offices, new appt. system to help speed local vaccination efforts

It also does not include several underlying conditions, including asthma.

The City of Memphis is working to straighten the issues out, said spokeswoman Arlenia Cole.

Around 9:30 a.m. Friday, March 12, a post on the City of Memphis Facebook directed people having difficulty with online VRAS appointments to call 1-866-442-5301.

Jaime Berkheimer McElroy did that and waited 26 minutes on hold to be told the state Department of Health is not able to schedule appointments for Shelby or Davidson counties. She was directed to call 901-222-SHOT.

Gail Crawford Reed called both numbers and was told appointments could not be scheduled for Shelby County.

Doug McGowen, chief operating officer for the City of Memphis and the point person for COVID vaccination, warned Thursday the transition could have “hiccups” because of the size of the Shelby County data field.

“Hunger games vaccination episode 12,” posted Marbella Francios.

The new system is another vaccine frustration for Marilyn Hergenrader, who typed up a list of shortcomings, including that the new online appointment software is missing “legitimate” underlying conditions. If the person tries to register anyway, it “processes your request and tells you that you aren’t eligible without an option to try again without calling,” she wrote in an email.

“If you are 16-17 years old and got your first dose because you have a comorbidity, it won’t let you schedule a second without calling,” she said.

If you happened to get a leftover dose after volunteering a shift at a vaccination site, the system also does not recognize those requests.

That is the beef of the Rev. Sandy Webb, who is due his second dose next week.

“I spoke with an agent at the state vaccination appointment office, and she told me that the site that gave me the first round of vaccination might be able to help.

“I called the Shelby County Health Department and advised to call 222-SHOT, which now links back to the state vaccination appointment office that had advised me to call the county office,” he said.

The upshot for Webb, at least early Friday, is that he and hundreds of other volunteers “are now partially vaccinated without a pathway to become fully vaccinated.”

Meaningful news delivered to you each week

Coverage of the key happenings in our city including city hall, elections, and more.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions


coronavirus COVID 19 vaccines VRAS
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


Reading comments and joining the conversation are some of the many benefits of subscribing. Join the conversation by clicking the View Comments button below. Not a subscriber? Click here. 

Our commenting policy can be viewed here

Meaningful news delivered to you each week

Coverage of the key happenings in our city including city hall, elections, and more.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions