Monday, February 15, 2021

The Vaccine Rollover

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 15, 2021] ©2021

I was going to write about the vaccine rollout last week but my first draft was 25,000 words and they only allow me 800.  But maybe that says it all right there.

As of this writing (February 10), things are starting to look up.  But what a mess the first month has been, especially considering that that the hugely-flawed appointment system was debugged on a bunch of often-techno-challenged senior citizens. When the advice is “ask your kids to help you,” a whole lot of computer science grads should have their diplomas revoked. 

The irony is that while Olof and I belong to, and are eligible to get vaccine from, two major health care networks, neither of them has been able to offer us a vaccine appointment. I was finally able to get my first dose of vaccine from a heath network that has never heard of me.  There is something wrong with this picture.

One of the networks we’re eligible through is using a Fall-of-Saigon approach to appointments.  As they note, they have “over 150,000” members in the 65-75 age group.  So in an Illusion-of-Appointments approach, they sent an email to all of us on January 23 jubilantly announcing that they had acquired 975 doses.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Suffice to say, the system crashed in 70 seconds. 

Three days later, we got an announcement of additional 2,960 doses, then on February 1, 2,000 more. Finally realizing the hostility toward– and futility of  - their system, they now only indicate a non-specified number of additional doses have arrived on a first-come first-served basis.

Our other health network (we’re seriously decrepit so we get health care from two networks) is by invitation only.  This frankly makes a lot more sense than the Illusion-of-Appointments approach from the one above.  The only problem is: we haven’t been invited.  Higher risk patients in our age group are getting priority, which we absolutely agree with. 

I will have to say in defense of our primary health network that they have improved their vaccine scheduling site.  Initially, you would have to scroll through and click on endless pages of “I understands” to even get to the scheduling page where they fooled you into thinking you could actually select a site (or sites) and even a day and time for your first dose.  Frankly, we weren’t all that keen on going all the way to Vista (one of the options).

But every option I picked would come back as saying no appointments available at my preferred location and time.

Finally, I got wise and clicked “anywhere west of the Mississippi (including Vista) during my natural life expectancy” and got back “No available appointments.”  Anytime.  Anywhere.

Now, at least, the site leads with “No available appointments” the second you go log on which saves a lot of time, even if it dashes hope.

Even if you should be so lucky as to get an appointment, no matter how fast you try to get a second one for your spouse, there has been, at least up to this writing, virtually no possibility you are going to get appointments at the same place back-to-back.  So a couple can often expect to make FOUR TRIPS to get your two doses each. 

As far as the Supercenter vaccine sites go, people are uniformly praiseworthy of how efficient it all is once you breach the PetCo gates.  But getting the appointment (which are fortunately now opening up more) and actually navigating the often-massive traffic jam on downtown city streets is another story.  More and more friends have told us that they have simply parked their cars as close as they can get and gone to PetCo’s walk-up station.

The site which opened up to help resolve the appointments problem didn’t work the first day. The 211 phone site for the computer-challenged reportedly (from friends who have tried it) can require hours on hold, until you finally give up and hang up. And ask your kids to help you.

I was also terrified that before we were ever able to get appointments through our two health care providers that they would open it up to the next group – people younger, more computer savvy, with faster fingers.  Patience, as I initially hoped, was not going to be on our side.

Upon hearing that denizens of California’s penal system might be getting priority, we started to think we were going to have to get more creative if we wanted vaccine. Maybe knock over a liquor store? Embezzle from the grandkid’s soccer team? Desperate times, desperate measures.

Fortunately, I was ultimately able to get two appointments at a smaller venue although not on the same day.  Alas, as I was literally getting my shot, Olof got a call that his appointment for the following morning was cancelled.  They were out of vaccine.

And that, of course, is the fundamental problem.  Not enough vaccine.

I checked our main health care provider this morning but still no appointments there.  But then, like a deus ex machina, Olof was suddenly “invited” by the other one to get the vaccine. He’s going this afternoon.

Personally, I’m thinking this whole vaccine program has more rolled over than rolled out. But better days appear to be ahead.


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