After a near-disastrous start, the process of signing up for COVID-19 vaccines became progressively easier — before stalling again when allotments ran out Wednesday (see adjacent story).

Last week the Mississippi State Department of Health opened up vaccine registration to people 75 years old and older.

Registration became available for residents 65 and older and those with pre-existing health conditions on Tuesday.

People could sign up either online at or via a toll-free phone number. The problem was, many senior citizens don’t use computers, and the phone line stayed tied up. Also, both the website and phone line crashed repeatedly.

“They’re turning it into a Chinese fire drill,” quipped David McDaniel, 87, of Chatawa, after his first unsuccessful attempts to register.

The first time he called the number, he got a weight-loss company.

“I don’t know how I did that,” he said.

The next time he called, “I was on hold for an hour and a half and I finally gave up,” he said, noting he talked to a neighbor who had a similar experience.

At that point he was ready to give up. But he turned to a younger person for help.

“I finally got my stepdaughter to get on her computer to do it,” McDaniel said. “It took her awhile but she did it.”

McDaniel is scheduled to get his first shot next week at the Pike County Health Department on Presley Boulevard in McComb.

Jimmy and Joyce Dye of Summit had a similar experience.

“In the first place, the phone lines were down. We called two days,” Mr. Dye said.

“I about gave up on it. I said, ‘It’s the stupidest system that they’ve got.’ I said, ‘There ain’t no way it’s going happen, the way they’re doing it.’ ”

On Sunday, though, they struck paydirt. Mrs. Dye made a point of calling first thing in the morning.

“It was wonderful. I had the hotline. It rang twice. We got our first shot yesterday,” Mrs. Dye said Tuesday.

“They’ll ask you a few questions,” Mr. Dye said. “They’ll give you an eight-digit number and will send you a confirmation number.”

The shot was equally pain-free.

“We went to the health department,” Mrs. Dye said. “We didn’t wait there. We drove right up, got the shot and came home.”

The injection itself was no problem either, Mr. Dye said.

“There’s nothing to it,” he said. “It’s easy. I never felt a needle, and my wife didn’t, either.”

They had to wait 15 minutes in the parking lot to make sure there were no side-effects.

“We’re not even sore in the arm. I didn’t have a bruise or anything,” Mr. Dye said.

Mrs. Dye felt a little rocky on Tuesday but said that was probably due to her sinuses.

The Dyes each received a card noting they received the Moderna vaccine and listing their registration numbers. People who get the Moderna vaccine should get the second shot after 28 days.

The Dyes haven’t signed up for the second shot yet but are planning to.

“I’m going to call that hotline again and tell them who I am and give them that number and they’ll set me up a time. We’ll go at our convenience,” Mr. Dye said.

Mrs. Dye’s advice to others who may have given up out of frustration: “Don’t be discouraged, because it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

The health department continued to have problems off and on this week, however.

The department website lists a toll-free vaccination hotline — (877) 978-6453 — available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. The Enterprise-Journal called that number Tuesday afternoon and had a 12-minute wait before a person came on the line.

In the meantime, recorded messages referred callers to the website covidvaccine .umc.edu for self-registration.

For general questions, they referred callers to msdh.ms.gov or advised them to call (601) 576-8050.

The Dyes called the (601) 576-8050 number. The Enterprise-Journal called that number and got recorded messages referring them to the website healthyms.com as well as the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages and its “msready” app.

A woman came on the line within a few minutes and said, “The computers have crashed and we’re not able to register anybody right now.”

She advised calling back in an hour.

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