In Search of the Shot
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First-Person Tales

In Search of the Shot

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.

— Feb. 25 —

I’m 62, just under the 65+ limit. I have stage 3C recurrent male breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. One would think that is enough to get a shot. I need to get the vaccine soon so that I can start 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation, during which I’ve been told the vaccine probably won’t be effective. I thought I was lucky working part-time for a college as a baseball coach, which puts me in an eligible category, but now the severe weather is slowing down delivery of vaccine even more. I have a daughter who is the city emergency manager where one of the super-pods are located. One would think the little bit of inside info I get would help me get the shot, but no. So, I sit at my computer with all of the chain drugstore’s websites open, with Othela’s website open, with Kaiser’s open, and with Hoag’s open. I think I’lI check all of the supermarkets and small local pharmacies too. I check my email regularly to see if I’ve been given an appointment. I’m not giving up, but soon I will need to start chemo.

— Laguna Woods, California

— Feb. 24 —

I had been stressed and worried for almost a year. After reading about Wuhan in the NYT I knew we were all in for trouble. My husband is a healthcare provider in the beautiful Outer Banks in North Carolina and I also work in his office. My husband absolutely refused to close his practice even though the OBX was literally flooded with tourists escaping COVID-19 restrictions. Thankfully, with very strict masking and cleaning protocols no one in our office got sick. Some of our patients were not as fortunate. As soon as our state started shipping the vaccine to local health departments, I contacted the county COVID hotline and emailed the public health director. Even though we are independent from the local hospital, we were vaccinated in January and received the Moderna booster in February. I feel like a huge weight is off of my shoulders and I no longer fear my husband will not make it to retirement in a few years. Dare County Public Health Director, Dr. Sheila Davis, will have my eternal gratitude for her tireless work educating the public and efficiently vaccinating our county.

— 59-year-old
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

Fresno County has done a wonderful job! I did spend a day checking my computer for appointments to open up! Got our shots at the fairgrounds. They then scheduled the next shot for same time three weeks later! Brilliant! I’m 66 and my husband is 67.

— Fresno, California

— Feb. 22 —

I feel like the successes get no love. I am 73, waited patiently for the opportunity to open up, and jumped on my computer that morning. I had to drive a ways (a pleasant diversion) but when I got there (Santa Cruz, CA. Summit Healthcare), they were organized, on time, very polite and got the job done. I could not be more pleased. Getting #2 on 3/9/21.

— 73-year-old
San Mateo, California

— Feb. 19 —

On February 12, I read about CVS offering COVID vaccinations at selected pharmacies in certain states. I immediately jumped onto their website and was able to secure appointments for myself and my 99-year-old father. We got our first dose three days later at a nearby CVS and have our appointments for the second dose. The entire process was simple and relatively speedy. My dad would have been content to wait for the vaccine, but the opportunity availed itself because I was prepared to get him registered as soon as I found out about CVS offering appointments. This may seem obvious to some, but if you are in a position to help elderly family members and friends who cannot access the Internet or are uncomfortable navigating websites and registration processes, get their insurance information, driver’s license or state-issued ID number and last 4 digits of their SSN so you are prepared to make the appointment on their behalf. This information may or may not be required, depending on which organization you are contacting, but if it is, you’ll be ready.

— 66-year-old
San Ramon, California

— Feb. 18 —

Not being a member of myHealth Stanford, I created an account and scheduled an appt. for mid-March. I then found a county agency where I was able to make a “request” for an appt on 2/8. I didn’t get confirmation for that, so I emailed them on 2/8 inquiring about it, but went anyway and received a shot. That night I got an email saying they were looking into my request and would get back to me. At 11:02pm 2/11, I received an email that I was confirmed for a shot on 2/12 at 3:00pm. Obviously, I did not go to get another shot. After I received my first shot, I went back to the Stanford site to cancel my appt., but they have no record of me having an account with them. Let’s see what happens when I go to get my second dose. Does not inspire confidence in our systems.

— 65-year-old
East Palo Alto, California

— Feb. 16 —

I got through to the appointment desk at my HMO and answered various questions. The stopper was whether I had any cold symptoms. Yes, winter sniffles from allergies etc.; I have a cat, there’s dust, I’ve been shut up in my house for months now, so I have the sniffles. Sorry, she said, no Covid shot for you. I’m 76 and been a member of that HMO for almost 50 years. I told her that and said, Is my HMO saying I can’t get a life-saving vaccine because of SNIFFLES? I had an inspiration. Gee, I exclaimed, my cold has gone away! I even threw the Kleenex box away! She understood what was happening, backed up in the questionnaire, indicated no cold symptoms. That freed up the appointment system. I got my first shot in a city 1.5 hrs away, but at least I got it.

— 76-year-old
San Francisco

— 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.

— 65-year-old
Sacramento, California

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

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

I am 73 years old and obese. I signed up with my county — Contra Costa County in California. I was told I would hear from someone but have not.

— 73-year-old
Walnut Creek, California

Spent more than 24 hours overall searching and refreshing pages in San Diego and finally scored my first vaccine appointment. At that appointment, there was no opportunity to schedule a second shot. We were told to use the same process and hope for the best. What is the impact on public health for those of us who never successfully are able to schedule the second vaccine? The supersite was efficient and incredibly well staffed, but the websites are absolute crap.

— 66-year-old
Encinitas, California

Success story! We heard from friends that Moscone Center in San Francisco is giving Pfizer vaccines. Signed up immediately, and got the first one a few days later. It’s a huge building, great ventilation, very few people. Lines very short. Lots of helpful people to guide you to the right place.

— 73-year-old
San Francisco

My grandmother has been waiting to hear from Kaiser regarding when she can be vaccinated. She is 90. It’s been 3 weeks of waiting. She went to CVS near her neighborhood and they told her to go online to sign up. But she doesn’t have internet, a cell, or a computer. 

— Los Angeles

My wife and I are both Kaiser Members. I was told by 2 reputable friends about their getting vaccinated through Kaiser in Moscone Convention ctr SF. I called Kaiser (the day after their vaccination) and got very nice help to register (my wife and myself) for being notified of any upcoming scheduled appointments. HOWEVER NO appointments were available at that time. I asked if our ages were consistent with the availability, and was told that our ages were consistent with getting an appointment.

— 74-year-old
San Francisco

Read an article in Sunday’s SF Chronicle that mentioned (Feb 7). There were appointments available at the Moscone Center. Snagged two.

First jab this afternoon — in and out in around 30 minutes. Very smooth process. Minimal waiting in lines (though long walks for frail folks).

Told several 65+ y/o friends about the site.

Looking late this afternoon, more appointments available.

— Oakland, California

Hello, I’m submitting for my in-laws, who are in their early 70s, and live in Sonoma County, CA. One does not have a primary care doctor and one does. The one who does could not figure it out from her provider. He had no information for her.

The daily updates on the website for Sonoma County said to call different providers, but they would ask my in-laws multiple questions because they are 3rd parties that find your identity through other means to set up an account, and then after all that they don’t have any appointments. We were finally able to get my mother-and-law an appointment where we work at UCSF because she was a patient here for a specialty need. My father-in-law is still out of luck.

In CA the process is systematically biased against the population of older adults they are trying to target now that longterm care and healthcare workers are largely done. Anything that is all on-line or requires multiple complicated phone calls is going to be difficult for this population.

Meanwhile where my parents, in their late 70s, live in Fort Worth, TX, they signed up on-line and got appointments pretty quickly, and were even pulled out of line when they showed up because they were older and taken to the front of the line. They have both gotten 2 doses.

— San Francisco