We’ve Got To Do Better

I received my first dose of the Moderna covid-19 vaccine yesterday. I’m incredibly grateful and find my free-floating anxiety much relieved. I have an appointment for the second dose. No more reaction than a sore arm so far.

But the method of getting it leaves much to be desired.

New Mexico has a vaccine registration website. If you’re in New Mexico and you haven’t signed up yet, do it now. I’ll wait.

I signed up early and got replies via email and text that I was registered, with my registration number. They added some things to the website and said if you didn’t fill them all out (not onerous), you wouldn’t be contacted. Fortunately, I kept checking and updated my registration.

And then I heard nothing. The state told local media that Group 1A, medical personnel and people in congregate living situations, were completed in early January. But I talked to a friend in a retirement community shortly after that, and she was just about to get her shot the next day.

Further, they were moving on to Group 1B, which should include me. But no notification. I complained on Twitter to tweets from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Department of Health. Letters to the editor from others in Group 1B started appearing in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The New Mexican ran a couple of stories about groups received their vaccine seemingly out of the stated order. They were deserving people – one group that feeds the homeless and teachers. Hard to disagree that they should get the vaccine.

The problem was the seeming disconnect between what we read or heard in the news and what we saw happening. Notification through the registration system what group we were in and an approximate date we might get the vaccine might have helped. But nada. I began to wonder if the registration meant anything at all.

Out of the blue, on Saturday night, I received a text and an email. I could sign up for an appointment! I ran to the computer and got my second choice of time, my priority criterion being AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. That was yesterday at noon.

Snow complicated my plans. I shoveled the driveway, and by eleven it and the uphill road out of my neighborhood were clear.

I expected to see something out of my childhood, updated. Entry personnel with computers to check my registration and appointment numbers. A socially-distanced line of seniors. Multiple vaccination stations, with personnel ready to inject. An area of socially-distanced chairs in which to wait to see whether there would be a reaction. I wondered where that would be at the supermarket, but maybe they had a large back room for meetings and such.

When I arrived, I looked for signs directing me to the vaccination area, but they weren’t there. The man cleaning carts told me it was at the pharmacy, down thataway.

That was it. The usual pharmacy area, enhanced with four chairs for making out the paperwork and sitting afterwards. The usual pharmacy staff, two people behind the counter that I could see, were doing their usual things, plus checking appointment numbers and handing out the paperwork that asked the same questions I had answered on the website. The signatures and paper were probably to absolve the supermarket of responsibility.

The tech called me to the back room and administered the shot. Yay!

There were about four or five of us. Four or five per half-hour. Any more throughput would have required more personnel. I think vaccinations were available for eight hours. That’s eighty people a day.

The population of Santa Fe is 84,000. The surrounding rural areas add up to 100,000. At eighty a day, that will take 1,050 days to vaccinate all of Santa Fe, more to include the surrounding areas. That’s three years. Let’s say that there were three vaccination clinics yesterday in Santa Fe – the state isn’t telling us how many there are. That’s still a year to go. And we don’t know whether the supply of vaccine will be there. Yesterday the Biden team said they didn’t know how much vaccine they had.

Joe Biden has brought a capable team in to manage the response to the pandemic. Because the Trump team would not cooperate during the transition, they are playing catch-up. Biden plans to use FEMA for the kind of vaccine clinic I was expecting to find. FEMA sounds enthusiastic about the assignment. The states depend on the feds for supply and information, both of which have been disappointing.

Delays are baked into the system, but let’s hope things speed up in the next few weeks.

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