New Jersey COVID-19 vaccine hotline receives 17,000 calls in first hour it was open

New Jersey residents frustrated by seeking COVID-19 vaccine appointments flooded the state’s newly developed vaccine hotline with thousands of calls.
Gov. Phil Murphy says that the hotline received 17,000 calls in the first hour the new hotline was open, and 58,0000 calls in just four hours. The toll-free hotline is staffed by 250 New Jersey-based operators.
People with questions about the vaccine can call 855-568-0545 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The line is aimed at helping answer questions about appointments and registration.
“Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will eventually get an opportunity to get vaccinated,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
But she added that due to the number of people seeking the vaccine and the limited number of doses available, it may be some time before they get it.
“Due to scarcity, callers are not guaranteed an appointment when they call,” she said.
Murphy said that he knew that the first day of the hotline would see a “tsunami” of calls, but that he is satisfied by how the call center performed.
“We expected this…today will be the all-time high, with the passage of time, you’re getting some normalizing,” he said.
The operators are not Department of Health employees. The state contracted with the company Xtend after a competitive bidding process.
“We continue to have a tremendous imbalance between the demand for vaccine and actual vaccine,” Persichilli said.
Murphy said that he is looking to work with the White House and Walgreens to increase New Jersey’s supply and speed distribution of the vaccine.
The governor also said that he could soon lift some restrictions on the number of spectators at indoor youth sporting events.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.