Looking for the shot

Too little covid vaccine and too much demand: this is what KHN readers from across the country accurately describe in their often annoying search for a shot, even though their local guidelines and priority system often clearly qualify them. Public health officials say supply is growing and will meet demand in a few months. However, reader experience shows how limited access is. Some savvy readers report that signing up for the vaccine is not a problem, others say that inadequate application processes and information have hampered their efforts. Their raw reports are a good snapshot of the mixed situation across the country.

Story of the day
– February 12th –

I am 65 years old and eligible for the vaccine. But I’m on an independent medical group, and a lot of the big vaccines here are big medical groups. When I call my doctor, he tells me they are waiting for a clinic, that he doesn’t have a vaccine. The advertised “mass vaccination station” at Cal Expo is hardly used. When I hear that vaccines are available in various hospitals, pharmacies and clinics, there are no appointments available when I log in. It is a vaccine for the privileged and members of the large medical groups. Everyone else lose.

– 65 years old
Sacramento, California

– February 12th –

I’m trying to get my mom, 86, in Manhattan, NYC, vaccinated. Lacking that aside, I’m very angry at the hospitals and other vaccination centers for their awful, reckless websites that make the fear worse. Very simple things could be done to make them kinder. You are currently landing in a circle. For example: NorthwellHealth facilities are located near your home. After going to the NYC Covid page, I select one of their hospitals and click on their website. If they don’t have a vaccine, they won’t have any information about the first vaccine appointments on their Covid page. None. There is a Make Appointments button that allows you to schedule regular appointments with doctors. The page that lands you on the NYS list should have a big button that says you need to get a vaccination appointment even if there are no appointments. Some other websites require you to fill out the forms before telling you that there are no vaccines. And you can’t just do it once. You have to do it over and over again.

My sister and I try to do this for her. The fact that you have to go on the internet pushes the elderly, who need the vaccine most, to the periphery. But at least they could make the websites friendly and helpful. We are a country where we are investing more money and time making sure people know how to drink Coke than helping people understand health care. This is a systematic problem that should be improved. There are marketing people out there who know how to deal with the public, but the healthcare system chooses not to use them.

– New York

Yesterday I saw the good and bad of the vaccine rollout. My 95-year-old mother experienced an hour-long, twenty-minute ordeal that mostly stood before the 380 W MacArthur Emperor in Oakland. Fortunately, a wheelchair was offered and much appreciated.

We were 15 minutes early for the 10:15 appt. and finished at 11:20. The whole operation seemed bulky and bureaucratic. Remember to stand in a long line at a rental car company.

Now to my almost dreamlike experience of gliding through the Moscone Center in SF and arriving about 25 minutes early for my 5:45 am appt. I was immediately checked in and escorted to the vaccination booth. The nurse checked me on her screen and asked the routine questions that were poked in the arm. She gave me my 5:45 am sticker and sent me to the observation area. After my morning in Oakland, I’d like to take my mom to Moscone for her second shot, but as far as I can tell, Kaiser doesn’t seem to let that happen.

– Oakland, California

I am a stage 4 cancer survivor and can have long-term heart and lung effects from the treatments I’ve gone through. I’m 44 and live in Denver. It is unclear which vaccine group I fall into. Some states, like New York, prioritize any cancer survivor, but Colorado only considers people who have been on treatment for a month. Also, they want you to have two high risk conditions – how are these defined? Do i qualify? Do my doctors have a contribution?

My oncologist and GP do not know when I can be vaccinated. My healthcare system website says that if you have an online account, you are already in their system and they will let you know if you are eligible. I don’t know if that takes my medical history into account.

I have been to four pharmacies in my area so far; Only one had vaccines, and they had a paper list to call if they ended up with extras. I’ve also signed up for notifications online with some health systems (Centura, National Jewish). Only one person asked about the state of health when registering.

So at this speed I guess: spring? Summer? Will I be treated as a healthy adult and will I be the last to be vaccinated?

– 44 years old

We checked the Sacramento County website on February 3rd. We found a link to a vaccination clinic in our neighborhood in Safeway. Made an appointment for February 6th when I got my first dose. Within minutes of the vaccination, I received an email confirming an appointment for the second dose within 28 days.

– Sacramento, California

We heard that the local center would allow people to check in at 3pm on a Sunday. My husband and I were updating our respective computers every five seconds, waiting for the portal to open. We have scheduled appointments through EventBrite on the same day and at the same hour. When my husband and I took our first shot, we stood in line out in the sun and heat for about an hour and a half before entering the county health department, which administered the shot. Most of the other people in line were elderly and / or frail, with strollers and in wheelchairs. The district staff did their best to make them comfortable, which wasn’t much due to the logistics of the operation. The second shot was a breeze – in and out in about 25 minutes, including the mandatory 15 minute wait after vaccination. I have a friend who is 80 years old, had cancer three times and still can’t get an appointment and has tried several times.

– Lakewood Ranch, Florida

I signed up with the Kalamazoo County Health Department in Michigan. I think it only took a couple of weeks for them to send the application to register for the appointment. I had a choice of two days and three time periods with the first, second and third choices and was asked if I needed help. An appointment was then sent to me by email. When I got there, a police officer was directing traffic and giving instructions to stay in the car until five minutes before my appointment. It seemed less. I went through several stops very quickly. The parking lot had so many cars and I had to wait 30 minutes after my injection. And yet I drove down the street in 45 minutes and had my second appointment made.

They reminded me days before my appointment, the day before my appointment, and the morning of my appointment. So quickly, so efficiently, and so many people there that there was no time to do anything but do what had to be done. AMAZING planning and amazing workers and volunteers.

– 77 years old
Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Covid distribution in Maryland is a real mess. There is no central registration office. The state has a website that lists many providers, most of whom do not have the vaccine. One of the major national vaccination centers, Six Flags America, does not allow you to register for the vaccine. Almost all of the websites listed on the state’s website said they did not have a vaccine.

– 68 years old
Ellicott City, Maryland

It’s awful for Tier 2 here in the county. That includes all educators and anyone over 70. The appointment software company they have chosen hasn’t changed their program to accommodate thousands daily and hourly trying to get an appointment.

I was finally able to get my first shot. I still haven’t been able to use the information Carson City Health and Social Services was putting on the news. I poked around on the internet and found that a drugstore (Walgreens) and a drugstore in a supermarket (Smith’s Food and Drug) were getting the Moderna vaccine and were making appointments the next day. I tried Walgreens but did not shop there and was unable to enter the system. I tried Smith, and it was so easy that anyone could figure it out. I just made an appointment for the next morning. Four days ago I received an email from Kroger, Smith’s parent company, telling me the time and day for my second dose.

Every city, county, and state seems to have surprisingly different ways to post information about where and how the vaccine is dispensed and administered. I think it’s still a logistical issue that our former government officials weren’t expecting.

– 78 years old
Carson City, Nevada

A few weeks ago I registered for a vaccine with the district health department. I’m 78 and live in Albuquerque. My registration was confirmed, but nothing more. The county program seems to be in chaos.

– 78 years old
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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