Opinion: Frustrations and Detours on the Road to Getting the COVID Vaccine

I received the first of two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Feb. 6 at a 2:30 p.m. appointment (ha ha) at Dodger Stadium. My friend, Senior Advisory Board member Nadia Sutton, accompanied me to receive her first dose as well.

Getting the appointment is the biggest barricade to success. Because of the present shortage of vaccine, appointments are limited. The Dodger Stadium site did run out of vaccine supplies before the end of our appointment day and cars were turned away. Luckily we were not.

An entity named Carbon Health has been layered into the appointment process for some reason at vaccination sites including Dodger Stadium. That imposed a problem into the situation.

We arrived at 1:40 p.m. at the Academy Road/Golden State Gate from West Hollywood for the timed appointment that I had made about a week in advance at VaccinateLACounty.com. Nearly all the other sites you hear of or are recommended to seem to end up there.

There seems to be some credence to try about 3:15 p.m. any day to seek appointments for the next several days.  They dematerialize quickly if you find a set, and you still have to fill out an appointment form – each and every time – to achieve success. Appointments disappear as you sign up!  First and second dose appointments seem to be separated as to availability.  Types of places for vaccinations are arbitrarily grouped by the type of administrative control – not arranged by Zip Codes.  Pharmacies are separate. (Hospitals and medical groups are differentiated from clinics and have private appointment access). The many entities don’t share appointment times scheduling.

The problem of scheduling an appointment with anyone accompanying you to also get their shot instantly presents itself as there is NO provision to include a second person: no eligible household member, no eligible neighbor, no eligible friend: one person, one appointment, one visit, one vehicle – PERIOD.

There is NO possibility in reaching any knowledgeable assistance to over-ride; any telephone number you may discover on the website for Carbon Health does NOT connect you to a human being at the scheduling site – you are ultimately disconnected. I deliberately called their billing officein San Francisco to try to get connected to Scheduling. That effort was unsuccessful; “not my department” was the answer and there are no inter-division call transfers.

Considering that it was unimaginable that every car there would be solely occupied by the driver only, Nadia Sutton accompanied me to get her first shot, knowing that once there and inside, her ID would grant eligibility. It did!

Upon arrival at Dodger Stadium cars are formed into three lanes; there may be a volunteer to ask the number of eligible occupants to note that on the windshield. There was no inspection of appointment times nor eligibility at this point.

Vehicles creep about thegeneral parking lot multiple times in the 3-lane formation. There are Porta-Pottys at two locations along the way. Ultimately, after 2½ hours the lanes were separated into single lanes feeding into multiple columns of cars in each of three tented vaccination areas.

At this point a person with a tablet/iPad came to each vehicle to check for appointment that day, see ID, and verify eligibility.  It was at this point that Nadia presented her documents; we commented that there had been no opportunity to include her/anyone else in the visit.  She was quickly added to the appointment list, and we both received our  vaccinations from a volunteer with a follow-along cart of supplies.  Success!

We each received a vaccination card noting the date and batch number of the Moderna vaccine. Our column of cars was then held there for about 15 minutes to allow for any adverse reaction to the shots to be noted. We were then told to drive away. The whole process took about four+ hours; a good, solid half-day of time. We were never asked for medical insurance verification; the vaccine is federal government sponsored, and the process is picked up by other level(s) of government or insurance consortium.

If you have any post-vaccine pain the recommended analgesic is acetaminophen (Tylenol). I have had no pain or discomfort from the vaccine.

At present we should get an email/text from Carbon Health in about two weeks to make an appointment for the 28th day to get our second shot on March 6 at Dodger Stadium or someplace where Moderna vaccine is being used. It takes about seven or eight weeks from the first vaccination to build full immunity.

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