OneArghavan Salles, an intensive care doctor in Phoenix, has spent the past few months desperately trying to keep Covid-19 patients alive. He knows very well how terrible it is for them to be alone in the hospital room, away from their families and dependent on a machine with every breath. So earlier this month, she was doing fierce online research and scouring state public health websites to schedule a vaccination appointment for her mother in California.
But like many other Americans trying to guide the vaccination process for themselves and their loved ones, Salles found himself drowned in an ocean of wrong paths and dead ends.
“This is complete chaos,” Salles said. “We are all desperate to figure out how to get it for the people who matter most in our lives, and it’s very, very challenging and very frustrating.”
Salles, who was defeated, took to Twitter to explain his effort. Dozens of people from all over the country commented on the thread with similar experiences and disappointments.
One person said that he tried to save his 87-year-old mother in Texas for appointments in three different counties, each of which didn’t work. Another person in Illinois complained about not getting any information about vaccinating her 86-year-old mother, whose immunity was compromised.
One man shared that his 79-year-old father in Virginia was kept on hold for over an hour and a half while trying to get an appointment – just to be disconnected. And one woman described how she and her two siblings tried to get a date for their 90-year-old parents in New York for six days. One of the two appointments the siblings made was canceled, but fortunately both parents were vaccinated at the second appointment.
“I was surprised at how many places have spent so much time finding vaccines for their loved ones,” Salles said. “A lot of people spend hours planning what should be something very simple.”
With the spread of vaccines mostly left to the states and counties, they had to quickly develop their own way of distributing their vaccines to their residents. Each state has its own priority system and method of scheduling appointments, which sometimes varies from week to week. The complex logistics paired with inconsistent communication with the public caused mass confusion. Conclusion: People spend hours searching for information and coveted date intervals.
Salles’s experience is revealing. At first, he thought a simple Google search for “How to make a Santa Clara County Covid vaccine” would work. This led to a county website explaining who was eligible for shooting. Her 70-year-old mother met the listed eligibility requirements. However, the website did not explain how to make an appointment. Instead, he listed several health systems to contact while guiding people to reach out to their own healthcare providers.
Salles decided to check her mother’s health insurance provider’s website, but said that this led her to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. There he clicked on a link for California and found that he had no private knowledge of scheduling appointments. So he went to the California department of public health website and said, “When, where and how can I get vaccinated?” He found a tagged section. It looked promising, he thought, but ultimately didn’t give him more information on how to schedule a date.
In some parts of Florida, such as Collier County, people have been instructed to use the event management website, Eventbrite, for their appointments. Kate Messner, a children’s book author in New York, spent an hour figuring out how to make a date for her parents aged 81 and 87 when she came across the Eventbrite connection. He said on the page that the registration opened in just half an hour, so he anxiously waited for the time to run out and successfully made a reservation before they were all taken.
“Signing up through Eventbrite was more like trying to get Springsteen tickets than trying to get an appointment with a doctor,” he said.
Others, such as Leila Mureebe, a vascular surgeon in North Carolina, weren’t as fortunate as using Eventbrite. Mureebe was on his website at 9 a.m. as registrations were opened to try and vaccinate for his 83-year-old parents, also living in Collier County. However, he was removed from the service after requesting two appointments and lost his place in the queue. The system said it happened about four or five times before telling him all the blemishes were gone. Instead, his parents stood in long queues at the mass vaccination site 2 and a half hours away in Miami.
“This is an unnecessary side effect of the vaccine,” Mureebe said. “Older people get hard enough with depression and all the other stuff due to social isolation from this virus. This is definitely the last thing they need. “
One night after working two days trying to make an appointment, Diana libudaThe assistant professor, a professor of biology at the University of Oregon, managed to catch a last-minute spot for his 79-year-old mother in San Diego at the Petco Park baseball stadium the next morning.
“I really felt like I won the lottery,” he said. During a previous attempt, she found an open space that disappeared the moment she wrote her mother’s information on her web page.
Vineet Arora, an academic hospitalist at the University of Chicago Medicine, used three different computer screens and phones to vaccinate his 75 and 73-year-old parents in Maryland and the 67-year-old babysitter in Illinois. But he said that every time he fills in health information on vaccine websites, the application will crash.
“Basically it’s all free,” Arora said. “It’s a mess, and having a first come first serve system is incredibly unfair and inefficient.” Thanks to a tip from a friend on Facebook, she was able to make an appointment with her kids’ babysitter.
Those struggling to get a date were sprinkled in Salles’s Twitter thread with responses that gave advice on how to successfully vaccinate other people. They shared their vaccination site dashboards: VaccinateCAOther resources compiled and encountered by volunteers.
“Someone retweeted my tweet,” he said, something like “If you want to learn how to vaccinate in this country, you should follow Arghavan Salles.”
Salles tried every tip he was given, including downloading an app for a $ 200 primary healthcare service that told him he could find a date. Despite the waiver of the application fee, it was fruitless for Salles as well. Finally, days after her first attempt, she was able to arrange an appointment for her mother for February 1 at Stanford Health Care, about an hour’s drive from her home. This information came courtesy of a friend who worked there and warned Salles about this, and the system was opening up vaccinations to patients over the age of 65. Salles said he was optimistic, but still felt it wouldn’t work in the end.
“When I try to vaccinate everyone it shouldn’t take four days to figure out how to get my mom vaccinated, and I need to crowdsource thousands of people,” Salles said.