Vaccine Woes

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Now that the vaccine is out, I have been waiting patiently. When at the end of December it was clear that the state of Oregon barely had a plan to vaccinate health care workers and people in assisted living facilities, I was slightly frustrated to be honest. My frustration was shared by my GI who told me that their practice had repeatedly sent letters to the Oregon Health Authority, and not hear back. Apparently the vaccine doses were just dropped off at various hospitals, leaving the organization and distribution up to them. The result is the completely uncoordinated mess I am experiencing.

When it was announced that teachers are group 1b, I was excited. I am only a sub, but my employer has been incredibly supportive, sending me links to sign up, and information on different clinics who offer the vaccine. I signed up with Kaiser, but as a non-member, I assumed that I would be fairly low on their list. I called a local clinic, but never heard back. Then, OHSU, where I have been a patient since 2015 set up a vaccine clinic, for Jan 31. As I had Remicade infusion this morning at 7.30, I asked to be put into a different room, so I could call and make an appointment. Called at 8.02, and got kicked out of the line, “due to unexpected high call volume.” How exactly is this unexpected? You have the vaccine, of course people will call you until the phone lines are frizzing out!

Called again at 8.08am. And at 8.13am. And at 8.26am. At 8.30am. At 8.40 am. At 8.50, I was put on hold (progress!), and at 9.04am, I spoke to a very friendly man who explained that they only vaccinate group 1a (and within that, only those who got an email), because this week’s shipment wasn’t enough for everyone eligible. When I asked how big the weekly shipments are, he said that “it varies”. (last week, according to him, they got three thousand people vaccinated). I was pretty frustrated at that point, but he promised me that “they’d be setting up more clinics in the next few weeks” and I should just keep checking in. Now, as a patient with a chronic illness, this isn’t my first rodeo. But what about people who don’t know how to do this? Other people are in similar spots- from calling for their elderly grandparents to trying to get a shot themselves- it’s near to impossible.

So much for “Operation warp speed”. States were not given the funds to set up mass vaccination systems, and as a result, 1.1% of Oregonians have received both doses. One point one per cent.

As I am writing this, there are new COVID variants out there, one originating from Brazil, one from Great Britain, and one from South Africa. I am so frustrated. I know that they medical personnel are doing everything in their power, I know that there is goodwill, and I know that the “covid task force” under slender man Jared Kushner did- well, we don’t really know what they did, but we know they didn’t prepare. So I guess, it’s back to one to my favorite hobbies (not!), get on the phone with medical providers to advocate for myself.

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