Are You Signing Up for the Vaccine?

My mom texted me on Monday:

Hi Melissa, I am sure you already know, but in case you don’t, all adults can sign up for vaccine starting today

What she texted wasn’t exactly true. She lives in Texas, so maybe she was going off what she heard locally. In New York, where I live, adults 30+ can sign up for the vaccine as of Tuesday this week.

Mom asked: Are you signing up?

I told her, “I’m gonna try.”

But I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’ve been hearing about the struggles of older adults, since the beginning of the vaccine rollout. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was how misleading the vaccine signups would be.

NYC has a website that shows you all the pharmacies and clinics offering vaccinations.

“It’s cool,” my partner said, “You can see what’s available in one place.”

Yeah, it’s cool, except, it’s not real.

The screenshot below shows the status of a Rite Aid pharmacy: FIRST DOSE APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE ! in friendly green text.

But if you click the “Schedule appointment” button, you will find out that, actually, no, there are no appointments.

“Apologies, due to high demand, there are currently no appointment times available at this Rite Aid. Please select a different store or check again another day.”

And it turns out, all the Rite Aid locations show the same misleading status. You get the friendly green announcement in all caps, only to be led to the same conclusion.

I saw New Yorkers posting on Twitter, suggesting a bypass of the nyc.gov website, and instead, to go directly to the CVS website to schedule an appointment.

I tried their suggestions. No luck.

I also went to the Walgreens website, and they told me there were no appointments within a 25 mile radius of Brooklyn.

Then I saw a location for a “Mass Vaccination Site” at Brooklyn Army Terminal. Trekking out there would be a chore, but maybe it would run smoothly with such a large space.

So I followed the link, fairly confident there might be appointments available. Sure, I knew to distrust the friendly green text by this point, but I figured, a “mass vaccination site” would have more availability than a Rite Aid.

The search defaulted to April 1, 2021 (today). Nothing available, though.

So I tried to change the date to the following day, and I received this message:

Value must be 04/01/2021 or earlier

Hm. Today is April 1, so it can’t be earlier. So basically, you can only schedule same-day appointments? And even those aren’t available at a “mass vaccination site?”

Then I started thinking about how my mother got her vaccine appointment in Texas. She signed up for a waitlist. And I eventually came across something similar in New York.

There’s a place called Essen (never heard of it), offering a chance to get on a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist. They give this warning:

Please note this is NOT AN APPOINTMENT — we appreciate your patience!

I started to fill out the form, and then I realized something. All the Essen locations are only in the Bronx. It would take me an hour and a half to get there. Is that really necessary when I have three viable pharmacies in my neighborhood alone? Plus, who knows how long until I’m off the waitlist.

I keep thinking about my 90-year-old grandmother in Denmark. She got vaccinated immediately, and she didn’t need to do anything. The system scheduled her appointment automatically, and all she had to do was show up.

My mother had a relatively easy time in Texas, too. She got on a waitlist and waited. They sent her an email and told her where to go. She got in her car, drove to a parking lot. Someone stuck a needle in her arm. She waited 15 minutes, and then she drove away.

Luckily, I’m not anxious to get vaccinated. I’m just glad certain people in my life have been able to get theirs. But I’m sure Mom will keep asking me if I got the vaccine yet. I guess I’ll just need to tell her, “I’m trying.”

Writer living in Brooklyn, NY.

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