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  • Dave Talaga

Hoops and Shots

Hoops and shots. That doesn't refer to the current 2021 March Madness basketball tournament. It refers to the hoops you have to jump through to get your Covid-19 vaccination. As my wife and I live in Michigan, which is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases lately, it's been particularly frustrating.

Even with our advanced age we seem to be last in line. My son and daughter-in-law both got their shots many weeks ago, despite being in their 30s and working from home. But they worked for the University of Michigan which seemed to be inoculating all employees regardless.

My parents have had both their shots. My younger brother and sister each had one vaccination. I did get two invitations a couple weeks ago, one from the U of M (I guess they ran out of employees to vaccinate) and another from the Washtenaw county health department. But I wanted to wait until my wife, who turns 65 in June, got her invitation.

She never did, despite registering with the Washtenaw county health department, our local pharmacy and getting her medical services through the U of M, which is her PPO. When her risk group became eligible in Michigan, still nothing. And then vaccinations opened up to anyone over 50 or any adult with a health risk factor.

Imagine standing in a ticket line at a movie theater along with others waiting in line who should be entering at the same time. Then the usher says, “Never mind the line, everybody can get a ticket now.” So whoever has a personal connection with a ticket-seller, has some inside information, is more adept at working the internet, or is just in the right place at the right time . . . well, that just made my wife out of luck.

Our other 30-something son found out that getting on a drugstore Covid-19 vaccination website at just past midnight worked for him. He got a vaccination appointment in a couple days. We heard of seniors who were finding appointments available in Ohio. Did we really want to go there? Rumor was that they would give you your first of the two-shot vaccinations, but would not schedule you back for the second shot.

To go back to that movie analogy, it would be like getting a ticket to a three-hour film show, then after an intermission the usher not allowing you in for the movie's second half. And the movie requires audiences to watch both halves.

I tried the vaccine finder site. I tried Rite-Aid, CVS, Kroger Pharmacy (my wife was already registered with Meijer pharmacy but we never heard back from them). All the sites made you enter your location, age, health conditions, which dose you needed, etc. Then finally we'd get the message that no vaccines were available even though the vaccine finder site claimed the store had them “in stock.” Despite my son's tip, trying this on the internet in the middle of the night didn't work either.

Entering all this information time and again just to be told that no appointments were available was more than frustrating. Once again, using the movie analogy, it's like we drove to the theater after they said they have tickets, then after buying popcorn and soda, being told by the usher that no seats were available and to either try another theater far away or this one on another day. Arggghhhh!

Neither Wendy nor I were able to get a vaccine appointment for her. I announced we were going to hold out for herd immunity instead. That bothered my older son who went on the internet and made an appointment himself for his mother through the Washtenaw county health department website. Kudos to him. It was three weeks out, but we'd take it. Funny how they never let Wendy know she was eligible.

But since the health department had already sent me an invitation, I found the original email and clicked on the link. If I were lucky, perhaps Wendy and I could receive our shots together as we had originally requested. Their link took me to a web page that had a three-step process: 1. Choose an appointment, 2. Your Information 3. Confirmation.

Cool. Almost there. I clicked on “Choose appointment” and the page simply just seemed to refresh. It didn't take me to another page where I could choose an appointment. There was a note highlighted in red that said, “All appointments are private, none are available for scheduling.” Whatever that meant. But no matter where and how I clicked I always ended up on this dead-end page.

It took me a while to find out that my appointment invitation had, in fact, expired as had this web page. The Washtenaw county health department had changed the appointment-scheduling web page without emailing me or posting in the site linked in their email to me. One last time, using the movie analogy, it would be like going to the theater and finding it closed with a sign out front that says, “All movies are for private audiences only. No showings at this time.”

By the time I did make it to the Washtenaw county's site, the earliest appointment I could make was over four weeks out so I did make my appointment through the U of M which gave me the first of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine this past Friday. And since Wendy's shot, so far, is supposed to be Johnson and Johnson's one-and-done vaccination, we should be fully inoculated at the same time. I guess all's well that ends well. But with so many dead ends, twists and turns (sorry, one more movie allusion), did it have to feel like I was in The Wizard of Oz?

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