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A Tale of Two Vaccines

I was in a hurry to get my vaccines. Veterinarians and staff were federally allowed to get our vaccines with other health care workers because we are essential workers. However, Ohio wasn’t having any of that nonsense so we had to wait for our age groups. I didn’t like that because although I am an oldie my staff is all in their 20s. They are exposed to the public all day long (mitigated by not letting people in the building but they still go get animals from their owners) and couldn’t get vaccinated. Also, my family is in Pennsylvania where they let fat people get vaccinated – not making that up. So between age eligibility and fatness all of them got vaccinated before I could when I’m the only essential worker. My husband got his from the VA before I could. I was glad about that. He’s delicate. Anyway, all this meant that when I was eligible to get vaccinated I jumped on the first available appointment.

I went to my public health department. Turns out that this is a 2 minute drive from my house. Who knew? We stayed in our cars and slooooooowly moved through a wavy maze of cones. It took me about 1.5 hours from the start of the line to the vaccine point. Before giving you the vaccine, you got a paper that had three dates when you could come back for the second vaccine. They were good for me so I got my shot. Yeah!

I pulled forward to wait my 15 minutes and immediately signed into the website to get on the schedule for my second dose. There were no appointments on the three days I was told I needed to come back. It would only give me an appointment on a much later date when I would be out of town. I flagged down an attendant and asked about this. They told me to just call the Health Department to get a different day. No problem.

Big problem. I called. I was told that this was my only option for a second vaccine and if I didn’t get it I would need to go somewhere else.

Issues:

  1. I got a Pfizer vaccine. The second dose would have to be Pfizer too.
  2. When a place gets a vaccine it is also allotted the second vaccine for you. Practically, this means that any location only has enough vaccines to give a second vaccine to people it has given a first vaccine to. You literally can not go somewhere else. No one will schedule you.
  3. Even if they wanted to schedule you, no one other than the health department has vaccines in my county.

So over the next 24 hours I kept calling back. I tried using logic. You can get a second dose of the vaccine any time after 21 days. They were trying to schedule me for 5.5 weeks out. I could come earlier. They were obviously running massive vaccine clinics on other days. They wouldn’t even notice one extra car. They are being sent my second vaccine – are they just going to waste it?

I was repeatedly told that I was out of luck. Some of the people got nasty. It was obvious to me that I was talking to people who didn’t know what they were talking about. They didn’t have the ability to go off script. They were told that the vaccine had to be on a certain day and that was it.

At lunch time on the second day, I realized that I had one play left. I immediately hated myself for even having the thought. But I knew it had to be tried. I had previously called as a doctor and a logical human being and that hadn’t worked.

I called back and put on my best ditzy white girl voice. Think total 80s Valley Girl. “Um, hi? I got my first vaccine with you and I got a paper that had the dates I have to come back? But the website won’t let me schedule on those days?” I was ever so perky and confused.

The lady on the other end sighed. I didn’t blame her. I was annoying myself by being so stupid-sounding.

She tried to give me the date I couldn’t come. I told her I couldn’t do that and the paper said these other dates. This woman, who is a paragon of grumpy virtue and flexible thinking, offered me a completely new date that was not on the paper. April 17. It was a Saturday, three weeks and two days after my first vaccine. I’m thinking furiously. I have to work that morning. But if I can only get it that day I guess we’ll shut down the clinic if we have to. I ask what time. She says, “Two, two-thirty, three, three-thirty…”

Wait a #@$%^& minute! There are a multitude of open appointments when I’ve been told over and over for the last 24 hours that there is no flexibility? I stifled my cursing and chirped, “Oooh, three would be great!!! You are the best!!!” She grumbled. I held my breath until I got the confirmation email.

I still sort of hated myself for it but I was also super proud that my White Woman Privilege combined with finding the right health department worker saved the day.

Fast forward to vaccine day. I’m ready for the long line this time. I went to Starbucks first. I have a drink. I have things to do to entertain me on the wait. I get to the health department and there are no other cars. I drive up to a first check point. I give them my card. They ask if I have an appointment. I say yes while mildly panicking. They say that they hadn’t seen my first vaccine date coming through yet. I chuckle reassuringly and say that it was a whole ordeal but I’m 23 days out and they wave me through. I drive immediately to the second ID checkpoint. I mention that last time it took me over an hour to get to that point. She says that second vaccine clinics are easier. (I’m not sure what that means. Are people not coming for their second? Was this a smaller clinic in the first place? I’m confused but I move on.)

I get my vaccine and go to the waiting area for my 15 minutes. That’s when it really hits me. There are about 10 people here. I spent 24 hours begging for an appointment and there is absolutely no freaking line at all. I wasn’t worked into an overbooked schedule. I was caught up in an inflexible bureaucracy. Hopefully, I was the only one but I doubt it. Hopefully everyone else didn’t give up and finally got the grudgingly helpful person but I doubt it.

Anyway, I’ve got my vaccines. I felt fine on my first one and just have a little arm soreness on my second. I’m grateful to be able to get vaccines for COVID-19 at all. But I’m still annoyed.

One Comment

  • Helen Murdoch

    This is the best post I’ve read today. You had me laughing at the insanity of your situation, but also totally frustrated that it just shouldn’t be so difficult. Most people are far less savvy than you and they will give up or get screwed. We need people to be vaccinated! My experience was so smooth and easy.

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