Let Inga Tell You: Getting COVID vaccination is still a shot in the dark for too many

Motorists line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots at the Petco Park vaccination superstation on Jan. 20.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

It continues to amaze me that we can land the Perseverance rover on Mars but San Diego, two-plus months after the vaccine rollout, cannot sort out the horrific daily traffic jam of people trying to get to Petco Park for their first or second doses of COVID vaccine.

For weeks, TV reporters have been interviewing massively stressed senior citizens who have literally been sitting in their cars for hours without moving. One recent interviewee said he had called San Diego police multiple times while sitting in his car, begging them to create some traffic control.

TV news on March 6 featured an elderly Poway couple who had spent 10.5 hours locked in gridlock traffic — and never even got to the front gate.

What is truly puzzling is that people are trying to get to an area accustomed to dealing with 30,000 to 40,000 fans on game days yet cannot accommodate 5,000 vaccine patients.

To add insult to injury, since it is really difficult for couples to get appointments together (don’t get me started), many couples have to endure this travesty four times.

I do know some people who have had a relatively easy vaccine experience. But not many. Scheduling has been the biggest hurdle, followed by chronic cancellations.

Once you have that first shot, you’re on the clock for the second one. But in true government fashion, when 3 million Americans couldn’t get their second shot in time (CBS News, Feb. 26), all of a sudden it’s not really all that important to get your second dose in the originally specified timeline.

Inquiring minds are suspicious.

Since I could never manage to get an appointment on the Fall of Saigon website of my main health care provider, and my other “invitation-only” health care provider failed to ever invite me, I finally got — through sheer serendipity (and a hot tip) — my first dose through a smaller venue.

But then they ran out of vaccine. As my date for my second shot came near, it was clear it wasn’t going to be on the date originally scheduled. Or possibly ever. I began looking elsewhere.

On Feb. 27, vaccine appointments were opened for the next tier: teachers, firefighters, child care workers, grocery workers: an estimated 500,000 San Diegans. I was now competing with a younger group, more computer-savvy, faster fingers. My second shot was doomed.

Never mind that there seemed to be the Allocation Re-Allocation System Du Jour in which X percent of the dosages would be designated for a specific group. Unfortunately, it adds up to 160 percent and doesn’t include the current eligible tier.

I’ll confess that a chief motivation was the hope that proof of two doses would make friends we haven’t socialized with in a year willing to come to our house for a meal. Who cares about immunity? I just want dinner.

For weeks, the first thing I did every morning — and multiple times during the day — was to go to all the sites, even the dreaded Petco Park, to see if they had any appointments available. Nope.

I was told by several people that one place actually did have appointments, but every time I tried to sign up for one (specifying second Moderna dose, which was one of the options), it would say there were no appointments in San Diego County.

Finally, someone in the Underground Vaccine Railroad tipped me off that this was a computer glitch. You just had to say it was your first dose, then when you got it, cancel the second-dose appointment you were given.

How is it possible that IT people don’t catch this stuff? No, don’t answer. This kind of idiocy has been rampant throughout the vaccine scheduling process on multiple appointment apps. One of my fellow oldies said he tried to sign up on a site that instructed him to “enable Java script.” Seriously? They might as well have said, “To use this site, you must speak Urdu.”

We oldies really hate perfidy and deception. But these are desperate times. I went ahead and booked an appointment for a first dose that was really a second. But I would lie awake nights worrying that when I arrived, they would cancel me (an already too-familiar experience), with a Nurse Ratched-type perp-walking me out of the injection room announcing to all waiting, “Do not even think of pretending this is your first dose if it isn’t!”

I did want my second dose put on my first-dose card, so when I showed up and the nurse asked to confirm that it was my first dose, I said, “Um, hypothetically speaking, if this were my second dose, would that be a problem?”

“Nope,” she said. “Our website is a total mess.”

Meanwhile, my also-much-canceled husband got his second-dose appointment confirmed. Two hours later he was canceled again. And so vaccine whack-a-mole continues.

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