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COVID-19 vaccine inquiries clogging up North Texas pharmacy phone lines

Providers are now turning to online sign-up forms to meet demand from "1B" population seeking COVID-19 vaccine information.

DALLAS — Pharmacies are becoming one of the central locations people are calling into seeking information about the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability.

That demand has only increased this week when the Texas Department of State Health Services ordered providers to start vaccinating the Phase 1B population if doses are available.

Elizabeth Landers said the phone hasn't stopped ringing at Dougherty's Pharmacy in Dallas. 

"On a scale from 1 to 10 on the phone calls, we’re probably at 11," Landers said. "It has definitely tripled our phone calls and kind of overwhelmed our system here.”

A representative at a Brookshire's Pharmacy in Kaufman told WFAA it was receiving so many calls that its regular customers could not get through on Wednesday.

At Dougherty's, Landers said, that's led to longer wait times and increased challenges getting prescriptions filled and receiving calls from physicians for non-pandemic related issues. 

Still, she adds clinical pharmacists there are enthusiastic, spending Tuesday using the allotted 500 doses at a Dallas area assisted living facility.

But how quick vaccine is being used in Texas is not clear.

According to DSHS data, 205,463 Texans have received the first dose out of 678,925 doses received by vaccine providers, as of late Wednesday.

This week, DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt urged providers not to allow vaccines to be “kept in reserve.”

RELATED: 'Temperature excursion' causes issue with some Moderna vaccine shipments to Texas, health officials say 

Doctor Philip Huang said he sees no evidence any vaccine is being held back, adding Dallas County Health and Human Services will be out of its weekly doses by Thursday.

“Some of the numbers that are on the website are actually not correct," Huang said. "We know that there is a whole lot more vaccine that’s been distributed than might be reflected.” 

DSHS did not immediately respond to questions from WFAA if the public data online is up to date.

Landers said providers, like Dougherty's Pharmacy, see the onslaught of calls as a sign of public enthusiasm and interest for taking the vaccine, once more supply becomes available.

"We knew this was coming," Landers said. "We just didn’t think it would hit us this fast and this quick.”

In response, Dougherty's Pharmacy on Wednesday started its own online form to allow individuals to sign up to receive information once more doses arrive. 

“I think we’re all trying to do the best we can and we’re just excited the vaccine is here and we can actually start helping people," said Landers.