Too little covid vaccine and too great a demand: That's what KHN readers from around the country detail in their often exasperating quest to snag a shot, although they are often clearly eligible under their local guidelines and priority system. Public health officials say the supply is growing and will meet demand in several months, but, for now, readers' experiences show how access is limited. Some savvy readers report no problem getting in line for the vaccine, but others say that balky application processes and lack of information have stymied their efforts. Their unedited reports are a good snapshot of the mixed situation around the country.
TALE OF THE DAY
— Feb. 12 —
I’m 65 and eligible for the vaccine. But I belong to an independent medical group, and many of the big vaccinators here are big medical groups. When I call my doctor, he tells me that they are waiting for a clinic, that he has no vaccine. The touted “mass vaccination site” at Cal Expo is barely used. When I hear there’s vaccine available at various hospitals, pharmacies and clinics, when I log on there are no appointments available. It’s vaccine for the privileged and members of the big medical groups. Everyone else loses out.
— Feb. 12 —
I am trying to get my 86-year-old mother vaccinated in Manhattan, NYC. Aside from the shortage, I am very angry at the hospitals and other vaccination sites for their horrible, inconsiderate websites, which are making the anxiety worse. Very simple things could be done to make them kinder. At present, you end up going in circles. For example: NorthwellHealth’s facilities are near her apartment. After going to the NYC covid page, I select one of their hospitals and click to their site. When they do not have any vaccine, they have no information on their covid page about 1st vaccine appointments. None. There is a button for making appointments, which leads you to making regular appointments with doctors. There should be a big button on the page you land on from the NYS listing that says MAKE A VACCINATION APPOINTMENT, even if there are no appointments. Some of the other sites make you 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 are trying to do this for her. The fact that you MUST go thru the internet is pushing the elderly, those who need the vaccine the most, to periphery. But, at least, they could make the websites friendly and helpful. We’re a country where we spend more money and time making sure people know how to drink coke than they do helping people understand healthcare. This is a systematic problem that should be improved. There are marketing people out there who know how to interact with the public, but the healthcare system chooses not to use them.
— New York
Yesterday I experienced the good and the bad of the vaccine rollout. My 95-year-old mother endured a one hour, twenty minute ordeal mostly standing outside 380 W MacArthur Kaiser in Oakland, thankfully a wheelchair was offered and very much appreciated.
We were there 15 minutes early for the 10:15 appt. and finished at 11:20. The whole operation seemed clunky and bureaucratic, think of standing in a long line at a rental car company.
Now to my almost dreamlike experience gliding through the Moscone Center in SF, arriving about 25 minutes early for my 5:45 appt. I was immediately checked in and escorted to the vaccination booth, the nurse checked me out on her screen asked me the routine questions jabbed my arm gave me my 5:45 sticker and sent me to observation area. After my morning in Oakland I’d love to take my mom to Moscone for her second shot but as far as I can tell Kaiser doesn’t seem to allow that.
— Oakland, California
I'm a stage 4 cancer survivor and may have long-term heart and lung effects from the treatments I went through. I'm 44 and live in Denver. It's unclear which vaccine group I fall into. Some states, such as New York, prioritize any cancer survivor, but Colorado only considers people who have been in treatment for the past month. Also, they want you to have two high-risk conditions — how are those defined? Do I qualify? Do my doctors have any input on that?
My oncologist and my primary care doctor have no word on when I might get vaccinated. My health system’s website says if you have an online account, you’re already in their system and they will inform you when you’re eligible. I do not know if that takes into account my medical history.
I’ve been to four pharmacies so far in my area; only one has had vaccines, and they did have a list on paper to call if they wound up with extras. I also signed up online with a couple of health care systems (Centura, National Jewish) for notifications; only one asked about medical conditions upon sign-up.
So, at this rate, I’m guessing: spring? Summer? Will I be treated as a healthy adult and be the last vaccinated?
Checked the Sacramento County website on Feb. 3. Found a link to a vaccination clinic at our neighborhood Safeway. Made an appointment for Feb. 6, at which time I received my first dose. Within minutes of being vaccinated, I received an email confirming an appointment for the second dose in 28 days.
— Sacramento, California
We heard the local center would allow people to sign up at 3 p.m. on a Sunday. My husband and I were refreshing our respective computers every five seconds waiting for the portal to open. We snagged appointments via EventBrite on the same day, same hour. When my husband and I went for our first shot, we stood in line for roughly 1½ hours outside, in the sun and heat, before we got inside the county health office, which administered the shot. Most of the other people in line were older and/or frail, with walkers and in wheelchairs. The county 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 the inoculation. I have a friend who is 80 years old, a three-time cancer survivor, and still can’t get an appointment and has tried numerous times.
— Lakewood Ranch, Florida
I signed up with the Kalamazoo County Health Department in Michigan. It was just a couple of weeks, I think, before they sent the application to sign up for the appointment. I had a choice of two days and three time spans with first, second and third choice and was asked if I needed any assistance. I then was emailed an appointment. When I got there, a policeman 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 fast. The parking lot had so many cars and I had to wait 30 minutes after my injection. And, still, in 45 minutes I was driving down the street and also had my second appointment made.
They reminded me days before my appointment, the day before my appointment and the morning of my appointment. So fast, so efficient and so many people there that there was no time to do anything but get done what had to be done. AMAZING planning and amazing workers and volunteers.
Maryland covid distribution is a true mess. There is no central registration site. The state has a site that lists many providers, most of which do not have the vaccine. One of the large statewide vaccine sites, Six Flags America, does not allow you to sign up for the vaccine. Almost all the sites listed on the state’s website indicated they do not have the vaccine.
Ellicott City, Maryland
It's terrible here in the county for Tier 2. That includes all the educators and everyone over 70. The appointment software company they chose to use did nothing to change their program to account for thousands daily and hourly trying to get an appointment.
I eventually was able to get my first shot. I still was not able to use the information that the Carson City Health and Human Services was putting in the news. I noodled around on the internet and discovered a notice that a drugstore (Walgreens) and a drugstore within a supermarket (Smith's Food and Drug) were being sent the Moderna vaccine and were taking appointments starting the next day. I tried Walgreens but I don't shop there and could not enter its system. I tried Smith's, and it was so simple anyone could get on it. I made an appointment so easily for the next morning. Four days ago, I received an email from Kroger, the parent company of Smith's, telling me the day and time for my second dose.
Each city, county and state seem to have surprisingly different ways of putting out information, where and how the vaccine is delivered and administered. I do think it is still a logistics issue that was not anticipated by our former government officials.
Carson City, Nevada
I signed up for a vaccine several weeks ago with the county health department. I’m 78, living in Albuquerque. My registration was acknowledged but nothing further. The county program appears to be in chaos.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.