My birthday haul

There were presents. Mary got me some ultrabright portable work lights that will come in handy when spider-hunting season finally gets here. But mainly what she did was spend a big chunk of yesterday calling all over the state trying to get me scheduled for a vaccination. There is an utterly insane website under our freaking insane American health care system that lists all the pharmacies/clinics that have a few slots open, and like some kind of goddamn video game you have to click on to book the appointment, and if you aren’t quick enough someone else might click on it before you. Then, if you do succeed in being the first to click, you better be prepared, because you will be confronted with a complicated form demanding all kinds of information about your insurance. PCN? Bin? Group? What the hell?

Anyway, Mary spent most of yesterday evening locked to her phone, punching the screen in the worst and most stupid video game ever. End result: I have a vacccination appointment for Monday evening at a site 3 hours away, to which I must arrive within a 17 minute window to get my injection.

Those of you living outside the US may now begin laughing at the idiocy of our healthcare and the havoc the insurance system wreaks on our lives. I remember as a young man that a staple of American news was propaganda mocking the Soviet bureaucracy — ha ha, they have to stand in line for groceries, and they don’t have 50 brands of toothpaste to choose from! — and I wish people here would have the self-awareness to recognize how foolish our system is, and fix it.


  1. brucej says

    Sweet Dog almighty that is insane. Seriously. Even here in the Terrible Sand Kingdom of Arizonastan we’ve been pretty efficient at it.

    My Mom and I were both in Ib (EDU workers and over 75) and it was a matter of filling in a bunch of info on a website (name, address, contact details, insurance info (which was optional). When slots were open for you they send an email, you click on the link and log in, choose your date and time. They’re all drive-through sites at a hospital, the community center or the U of A.

    In Maricopa county they’ve opened the Cardinals football stadium as a mass site; they’re well into 65 and up progress. I spent less than a half hour for both shots, 15 minutes of which was the mandated wait time.

    When they first started in January there were hiccups (systems didn’t talk to each other properly, broke under the traffic, etc) but they’ve largely ironed all of those out. The biggest problem is supply…we can get a lot more shots into arms than we have available.

    One county (admittedly rural, so a small population) ran their entire effort through their wildfire command center, so it was all set up for mass contacting people and organizing huge communications and coordination efforts…they’re now doing ‘anyone 18 and up who wants one can get one’…

    And this is in a state where the Legislature has been in Republican control since 1967.

    I thought Minnesota had at least a semi-capable government. My deepest sympathies.

  2. DonDueed says

    I got vaccinated yesterday! It was the Johnson & Johnson version, so I’m done — no second dose.

    Once I became eligible (65+) I spent three frustrating weeks trying to get an appointment using Massachusetts’ horrible web site, with no luck. Then out of the blue, one of the medical groups that has treated me in the past contacted me directly and offered a time slot. I had to travel into Boston, about a 50 mile drive, but I didn’t hesitate for a second.

    Congratulations, PZ. Sorry you have to travel so far, but let me tell you, the feeling of relief is palpable. What a great birthday present!
    So far, no side effects beyond a slight soreness. Not even as bad as a flu shot, for me anyway. In a few weeks I should be as safe from COVID as can reasonably be expected.

  3. rorschach says

    I’m registered to provide vaccinations in 3 different centres here in Germany. Since end January, I had ONE shift, because there simply is no vaccine available. So don’t be too hard on the US for once, over here it’s a total mess, and the same applies to Australia from what I can see, a mere 80000 people vaccinated so far!

  4. brightmoon says

    NYCs website was horrible too . Gave up in disgust after being told they had no vaccines for the umpteenth time. Sister texted me at 2 AM to tell me they had vaccines available and a PHONE NUMBER. I had insomnia that night so I saw the text . I called the number to get it in my phone . Someone answered !!!!!!! I got an appointment. I still have to get the second one but I already have the appointment and it’s a few blocks from my house! City hospitals are charging almost 300 dollars per appointment .( It used to be 7 dollars per clinic visit if you didn’t have insurance )wonder how the myriad illegal immigrants in my neighborhood are dealing with that huge bill. I suppose they just want people to die

  5. rorschach says

    The color of that house reminds me of the scene in True Detective when Rust and Marty find the house the killer once painted.

  6. komarov says

    “Those of you living outside the US may now begin laughing at the idiocy of our healthcare and the havoc the insurance system wreaks on our lives.”

    Your healthcare system is no laughing matter, but in this instance it’s way ahead of the government I have to live with. After a year (and continuing) of extremely variable pandemic countermeasures that are almost as hard to track as the pandemic itself, now we have an unending national and EU-wide vaccination quagmire. By the time I get stuck with a needle a vaccine in it it might already be ineffective against then dominant variants of the virus – or so cynics have speculated. I think they might be on to something. If the alternative is a game calendar tetris to actually move those vaccinations along, then sign me up.

  7. Nemo says

    The strange thing is, I keep hearing from newsfolk that the U.S. vaccination effort is actually a world leader (top two or three, they say). Imagine how badly they must be doing it elsewhere, for that to be true.

  8. says

    Here in Texas basically had to sit on the websie waiting for vaccines to be available. They would go fast when they appeared.
    Got an email from my primary doctor that he had some available. I had gotten my second dose about a week earlier.

  9. dorght says

    Got Pfizerized yesterday at an impressively very well organized event run by the Missouri National Guard. No insurance info needed. Only had to drive 2 1/2 hours South from St. Louis to a town down by the bootheel, like 90% of the other participants.
    Our Rep(rehensible) Governor hates the big cities that didn’t vote from him and has been sending vaccine to rural areas way way out of proportion to population percentages. Greater spread in some rural counties doesn’t explain the mismatch either. Only when the it became a publicity problem did he relent and promise to sent more to urban areas.
    Oh, and then yesterday he sent what seem like the entirety of the MO Highway Patrol to ticket people speeding back home to St. Louis after their unnecessary long drive. Not me. Some of those people did need ticketing though.

  10. dorght says

    @10 Forgot to add:
    In the parking lot I hard a Guard member tell a person waiting in a car for a relative getting the injection that if they wanted to get the vaccine also to go get in line. This was shortly before noon so they must have projected a significant surplus for the day.

  11. nifty says

    I have a relative who gives the shots. For the mRNA vaccines, the vials are often slightly overfilled so if your are careful you can squeeze some extra shots out of your shipment. Since once the vial is thawed you need to use all of it, that may explain the @11 dorght comment, or they may have already logged some no-shows for the day. The one-shot J and J is packed in single dose vials. The shot giver works for a community care clinic in WA state, and on a week to week basis may be allocated anywhere from 0 to 600 doses of differing types. Since they often do not know until a few days before the next week, that makes scheduling and contacting patients extra challenging, and is often helped by some local volunteers. (I just got my second shot).

  12. whheydt says

    About the problems with bureaucracy… In the 1970s, when my father was a civilian employee of the the US Navy, he said that his one hope for the US was that the Russian Naval supply system was worse than ours.

  13. R. L. Foster says

    Virginia finally got its act together. A month ago I accessed our county’s covid vaccination sign-up website and entered my personal info. They confirmed my vaccination status and then I waited. On the morning of March 3rd I checked my inbox at about 9:15 and there was an email from the Virginia Dept. of Health telling me that they were vaccinating that morning at the Colonial Williamsburg vaccination site, so hurry the fuck up and make an appointment. Now! (That wasn’t the exact wording, but the sentiment is accurate.) Most of the time slots were already booked, but there were still a few left at 11:40. I frantically entered my info. and when I finally got the confirmation I hurried on down. Fortunately, it’s only a ten minute drive. I was very impressed by how organized and efficient the whole process was. Some serious thought had gone into the set-up. Now I’ve got Moderna jab #1. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt. I was almost giddy when I left. The past year has been harder on my psyche than I thought.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Rorschach @5:
    References to the creepiness of True Detective is not too far off in relation to how the fallout of rotten politics is hurting people…
    If I had to choose between the current state of pandemic handling and a consistently cpmpetent one, you could throw in a dozen serial killers with the latter option and it would still be the better choice.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    Addendum: birthday gift:
    Someone please buy PZ a power bank so he can call for help when the car inevitably breaks down and the cell phone inevitably runs out of power on the way home from the vaccination site.
    Because we are still dangerously close to 2020. (I don’t know how to keep him safe from meteorites, maybe they all fell down in Kent this February?)

  16. hillaryrettig1 says

    PZ – are you doing in-person classes and labs now? how are the students doing, in terms of masking?

  17. tacitus says

    It’s no better in Texas. Rather than having a single signup system for the entire state, each city/county has been left to create its own system from scratch with, in the case of Austin, some horrendously amatuer coding problems. For the first several weeks, when you registered with Austin Public Health, you entered your email address as your id, only for the system to silently add “.aph” to the end of it.

    So when you tried to login next time, it didn’t work, and because it expected you to know your id (with the .aph on the end) you couldn’t even recover your account. I only found out what happened by chance, and had to tell several of my friends who were as much in the dark as I was after days of frustration.

    All of this would have been avoided if the state had provided a single system, or at the very least, a single turnkey server application for each district to install and easily customize for its own specific needs, but of course, Republicans don’t believe in effective government, so why should we expect them to even try?

    In the end, I didn’t even need to go through that website. I happened to be at my local pharmacy at the end of the day and they offered me a leftover vaccine they had to use before closing. Best thing that’s happened to me all year!

  18. magistramarla says

    My husband (age 64) was notified last week that VA centers were offering vaccines for 55+.
    He couldn’t get an appointment at our local one, but he could get one at the San Jose VA center, about 60 miles from our home.
    He asked, but they are not allowed to vaccinate me. He’ll be driving up tomorrow for his first dose.
    I’m still being told to wait by every entity that I check, since I’m (only!) 63.
    Here’s the thing – I’m disabled, while my husband is well and athletic. He bikes 10 miles per day for exercise!
    I have Sjogren’s Syndrome, which some docs (not mine) consider makes one more vulnerable to COVID.
    It’s an autoimmune condition, and my immune system over-reacts to everything. I have neurological symptoms and tremors, it has destroyed my sweat glands so that I’m unable to sweat, it has damaged my sense of smell, everything in my body that can be dry, is dry, it has damaged the cartilage of many of my joints, and my muscles constantly ache.
    Thanks to a bungled back surgery in Texas, I’m now permanently mobility disabled and can’t walk without forearm crutches or a walker.
    I also have Spasmodic Dysphonia, which causes my vocal cords to spasm uncontrollably. I haven’t been able to travel to San Francisco for the quarterly Botox injections, which help, for over a year now. I speak in a whisper or a croak, and I can’t talk on the phone, since most people can’t understand me at all.
    We’ve been very concerned about me getting the virus, so I’ve been mostly a shut-in for a year. The only public place that I dare to visit is the military commissary, since the MPs are vigilant about the mask mandate.
    My husband and I, as well as most people who know me, are quite confused that I wasn’t moved to a higher priority group.
    As soon as I’m immunized, I’ll be making an appointment for my vocal cord treatment in SF so that I can talk again!
    After that, I’ll return to my much-needed physical therapy.

  19. fergl says

    I got a text with a link. This gave me the option of 5 sites in Glasgow all within half an hour drive. Very efficient. Shame about our overall response. Virtually highest deaths per population in the world.

  20. MadHatter says

    Here in the UK I still have no clue when I will be able to get a vaccine. The weird thing is that it’s so regional too. My 75 year old mother-in-law just got hers in a county a few hours from here, I know a few 25 year old PhD students in my university who just got theirs (no health reasons, just luck), while a co-worker who was told to shield has still not been put on any official list for the vaccine. Apparently it goes through your GP, so maybe it’s luck of the draw and how organized your GP is. I have no idea at this point.

    So while the US healthcare system is an absolute mess (expat here) mass vaccination is just difficult so it’s hard to say this is down the mess that is US healthcare.

  21. jrkrideau says

    Those of you living outside the US may now begin laughing at the idiocy of our healthcare and the havoc the insurance system wreaks on our lives.
    Well, in general we do but the Province of Ontario seems determined to outdo most US states in vaccine non-delivery.