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Many Callers Left Frustrated As New Jersey Rolls Out New COVID Vaccine Appointment Hotline: 'This Phone Number Is Useless'

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A new COVID-19 hotline is supposed to help New Jersey residents make vaccination appointments.

But on the first day, it was overwhelmed.

"Our toll free vaccination hotline went live to assist residents," said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Call 855-568-0545 and you're supposed to be able to sign up for vaccine, or ask questions like where is the nearest location get a dose.

MoreHealth Care Workers Return To Newark Vaccination Center For 2nd Dose As State Grapples With COVID Vaccine Shortage

But it was swamped with 17,000 calls in the first hour, and many people CBS2's Natalie Duddridge spoke to couldn't get through all day Monday.

"I have 4 seniors that I'm trying to help get vaccines for," said Maurice Leo. "The New Jersey lines basically sends you to the website - isn't the point of the lines for people who aren't going on the website?"


The phone line was set up to help elderly and vulnerable people with limited access to computers get a shot, but when Duddridge tried to test call, an automated recording directed her back online.

Frustrated callers took to social media, tweeting "What's the use I can't schedule an [appointment] for my dad [who is] eligible. You need to improve the system."

Another said "This phone number is useless. There are no reps to speak to?"


Murphy says the phone line is currently staffed with 250 operators from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

*We expected a lot of people calling. They did," he said. "We continue to ask for patience as we await more vaccine doses coming into our state we have built the infrastructure from the ground up.

So far on the website, more than two million New Jersey residents have preregistered for the vaccine. But due to the scarcity of doses, officials say there are limited appointments.

Health officials reported another 3,700 cases in New Jersey Monday, bringing the statewide total to 598,660.

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