Let Inga Tell You: The vaccine rollout has been a rollover. Is it going to get on a roll?

Chateau La Jolla resident Butch Hansen receives his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 27.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

I was going to write about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout last week, but my first draft was 25,000 words and they only allow me 800. But maybe that says it all right there.

As of this writing (Feb. 10), things were starting to look up. But what a mess the first month was, especially considering that that the hugely flawed appointment system was debugged on a bunch of often-techno-challenged senior citizens. When the advice is “Ask your kids to help you,” a whole lot of computer science grads should have their diplomas revoked.

The irony is that while Olof and I belong to, and are eligible to get vaccine from, two major health care networks, neither of them has been able to offer us a vaccine appointment. I was finally able to get my first dose of vaccine from a health network that has never heard of me. There is something wrong with this picture.

One of the networks we’re eligible through is using a fall-of-Saigon approach to appointments. As the network notes, it has over 150,000 members in the 65-75 age group. So in an illusion-of-appointments approach, it sent an email to all of us on Jan. 23 jubilantly announcing that it had acquired 975 doses. Yes, you read that correctly.

Suffice to say, the system crashed in 70 seconds.

Three days later, we got an announcement of an additional 2,960 doses, then on Feb. 1, 2,000 more. Finally realizing the hostility toward — and futility of — their system, they now only indicate that a non-specified number of additional doses have arrived on a first-come, first-served basis.

Our other health network (we’re seriously decrepit, so we get health care from two networks) is by invitation only. This frankly makes a lot more sense than the illusion-of-appointments approach from the one above. The only problem is, we haven’t been invited. Higher-risk patients in our age group are getting priority, which we absolutely agree with.

I will have to say in defense of our primary health network that it has improved its vaccine scheduling site. Initially, you would have to scroll through and click on endless pages of “I understands” to even get to the scheduling page, where you were fooled into thinking you could actually select a site (or sites) and even a day and time for your first dose. Frankly, we weren’t all that keen on going all the way to Vista (one of the options).

But every option I picked would come back as saying no appointments were available at my preferred location and time.

Finally, I got wise and clicked “anywhere west of the Mississippi (including Vista) during my natural life expectancy” and got back “No available appointments.” Anytime. Anywhere.

Now, at least, the site leads with “No available appointments” the second you go log on, which saves a lot of time, even if it dashes hope.

Even if you should be so lucky as to get an appointment, no matter how fast you try to get a second one for your spouse, there has been, at least up to this writing, virtually no possibility that you are going to get appointments at the same place back to back. So a couple can often expect to make four trips to get your two doses each.

As far as the Petco Park supercenter vaccine site goes, people are uniformly praising how efficient it all is once you breach the gates. But getting the appointment (fortunately they’re opening up more now) and actually navigating the often-massive traffic jam on downtown San Diego streets is another story. More and more friends have told us they have simply parked their cars as close as they can get and gone to Petco’s walk-up station.

The website that opened to help resolve the appointments problem didn’t work the first day. The 211 phone site for the computer-challenged reportedly (from friends who have tried it) can require hours on hold, until you finally give up and hang up. And ask your kids to help you.

I was also terrified that before we were able to get appointments through our two health care providers, they would open it up to the next group — people younger, more computer-savvy, with faster fingers. Patience, as I initially hoped, was not going to be on our side.

Fortunately, I was ultimately able to get two appointments at a smaller venue, although not on the same day. Alas, as I was literally getting my shot, Olof got a call that his appointment for the following morning was canceled. They were out of vaccine.

And that, of course, is the fundamental problem. Not enough vaccine.

I checked our main health care provider the morning of this writing, but still no appointments there. But then, like a deus ex machina, Olof was suddenly “invited” by the other one to get the vaccine. He was going that afternoon.

I’m thinking this whole vaccine program has more rolled over than rolled out. But better days appear to be ahead.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆