“Have you had your shots yet?”
It’s become the topic of conversation du jour — at the gym, at school pickup, and at family gatherings, and for good reason.
The Covid-19 vaccine, despite what some misguided people believe, is a miracle of modern science. In the past 100 days, more than two-thirds of senior citizens (a group that was disproportionately affected by the pandemic), are now fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. As a result, we’ve seen an 80 percent drop in deaths and a 70 percent drop in hospitalizations.
The more people who are protected against Covid, the closer we all get to realizing some sense of normalcy.
And so, naturally, the common follow-up to the aforementioned question is: “Where did you get your shot?” Not just because people are curious, but because tracking down the vaccination has taken on a Moby Dick-like quality, particularly in states like New Jersey (where I live). I realize we’re not exactly alone in this regard, but until last week, I didn’t realize how far ahead some states were, until I had a conversation with a friend who lives in Northern Virginia.
She and her loved ones were able to check their eligibility, locate a vaccine site, and make an appointment through a statewide website (aptly entitled, Vaccinate Virginia). When I checked it out, there it was in big, bold letters: “Here’s How to Get Vaccinated.”
And yet, for those in other states, the Covid vaccine remains elusive. My friend and I joked that in New Jersey, you have to “know someone” to get an appointment. Or, perhaps more accurately, recruit friends to track the various sites and report on how long the lines were.
At one megasite, for example, appointments became available on Saturday mornings. Upon check-in (which began at 8:45 a.m.), patients were placed into a waiting room until around 9 a.m. At that point, those who were randomly selected received a notification and were on their way to getting the elusive shot. Those who were not selected were encouraged to stick around in case a few more appointments opened up, but when you can see that there are 8,000 people waiting for 2,000 vaccines, it hardly seems worth it.
Another option is to visit a pharmacy website. I had heard through the grapevine that CVS, for instance, released its daily allotment of appointments between 3 and 5 a.m. The trick was to wake up at the crack of dawn and keep hitting refresh until you hit the jackpot.
Not so easy peasy.
And, in my opinion, not acceptable. The process is far too cumbersome, particularly when it comes to something as critical as getting people vaccinated.
For those who work in the industry, this doesn’t come as a surprise. For patients and their families, however, it’s been quite eye-opening.
But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Patrick Woodard, MD, CMIO at Renown Health. “There is such complexity in the delivery and distribution of vaccines. I think this has actually highlighted that level of complexity to the lay person who maybe visits her doctor once a year and doesn’t think about healthcare,” he said during a recent interview. And while it doesn’t quite “solve the problem,” it can help people think about it in different ways, and recognize the challenges that providers are dealing with.
I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Woodard.
It shines a light on the lack of standardization that has plagued healthcare for years. And if there’s any positive to come from this, perhaps it’s the fact that healthcare and its complexities are being exposed. That more people will become aware of the battles providers and leaders face every day to ensure patients receive high-quality care.
It’s a realization that no one should have to “hit the jackpot” to get the care they need.