Monday, March 15, 2021

Vaccine Wars

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

It continues to amaze me that we can land the Perseverance rover on Mars but that San Diego, two-plus months after vaccine rollout, cannot sort out the horrific daily traffic jam of people trying to get into Petco Park for their first and second doses of Covid vaccine. 

For weeks, TV reporters have been interviewing massively-stressed senior citizens who have literally been sitting in their cars for hours without moving.   One recent interviewee said he had called the San Diego police multiple times while sitting in his car begging them to create some traffic control.

TV news on March 6 featured an elderly Poway couple with appointments who had spent 10.5 hours locked in gridlock traffic -  and never even got to the front gate.

What is truly puzzling is that people are trying to get into a lot designed to accommodate 30,000 cars on game days, yet cannot accommodate 5,000 vaccine patients who the city knows will be showing up daily. 

To add insult to injury, since it is really difficult for couples to get appointments together (don't get me started), many couples have to endure this travesty four times

I do know some people who have had a relatively easy vaccine experience.  But not many.  Scheduling has been the biggest hurdle, followed by chronic cancellations. Once you’ve got that first shot, you’re on the clock for the second one. 

But in true government fashion, when three million Americans couldn’t get their second shot in time (CBS News, February 26, 2021), all of a sudden, it’s not really all that important to get your second dose in the originally-specified efficacy timeline. 

Inquiring minds are suspicious.  

Since I could never manage to get an appointment on the Fall-of-Saigon website of my main health care provider, and my other "invitation-only" health care provider failed to ever invite me, I finally got, through sheer serendipity (and a hot tip) my first dose through a smaller venue.

But then they ran out of vaccine.  As my date for my second shot came near, they were clear it wasn't going to be on the date originally scheduled. Or possibly ever. I began looking elsewhere.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, vaccine appts were opened up for the next tier: teachers, fire fighters, child care workers, grocery workers: an estimated 500,000 San Diegans.  I was now competing with a younger group, more computer savvy, faster fingers.  My second shot was doomed.

Never mind that there seemed to be the Allocation Re-Allocation System Du Jour where x percent of the dosages would now be designated for a specific group. Unfortunately, it adds up to 160% and doesn’t include the current eligible tier.

I’ll confess that a chief motivation was the hope that proof of two doses would make friends we haven’t socialized with in a year willing to come to our house for a meal. Who cares about immunity? I just want dinner.

For weeks, the first thing I did every morning – and multiple times during the day - was to go to all the sites, even the dread evil Petco, to see if they had any appointments available.  Nope.

I was told by several people that one place did actually have appointments but every time I tried to sign up for one (specifying second Moderna dose, which was one of the options), it would say that there were no appointments in San Diego County.

Finally, someone in the Underground Vaccine Railroad tipped me off that this was a computer glitch.  You just had to say it was your first dose, then when you got it, cancel the second dose appointment they gave you.

How is it possible that IT people don’t catch this stuff?  No, don’t answer. This kind of idiocy has been rampant throughout the vaccine scheduling process on multiple appointment apps.  One of my fellow oldies said he tried to sign up on a site that instructed him to “enable Java script.”  Seriously? They might as well have said, “To use this site, you must speak Urdu.”

We oldies really hate perfidy and deception. But these are desperate times. I went ahead and booked an appointment for a first dose that was really a second.  But I lay awake nights worrying that when I arrived, they would cancel me (an already too-familiar experience), a Nurse Ratched-type perp-walking me out of the injection room announcing to all waiting, “Do not even think of pretending this is your first dose if it isn’t!”

I did want my second dose put on my first-dose card so when I showed up and the nurse confirmed that it was my first dose, I said, “Um, hypothetically speaking, if this were my second dose, would that be a problem?” 

“Nope,” she said. “Our website is a total mess.” 

30-plus hours (at least!) and the sheer stress of it, knowing that my health could well be depending on my least competent set of skills (computers). 

So, child care and grocery workers, welcome to the world of Refresh-related Carpal-tunnel-Syndrome. 

Meanwhile, my also-much-cancelled husband got his second dose appointment confirmed. Two hours later they cancelled him again. And so Vaccine Whack-a-mole continues.   


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