The day is finally here for tens of thousands of Coloradans.
You are officially eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine under the state’s phased distribution plan. It’s safe. It’s effective. It’s free. And it’s available everywhere from the opulent Anschutz Medical Center to your neighborhood Walmart. So, sign up to get it.
I dare you.
The naïve among us just call up the provider list on the state’s COVID-19 website and fill out a registration form … or two, or 10. Then we wait for a call, a text or an email.
And we wait.
We double-check to make sure our registrations were accepted. All good. We wait.
Our friends suggest numbers to call, so we crawl through the digital obstacle courses to the COVID vaccination departments’ lines and leave voicemails.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
No wonder hundreds of Jeffco teachers stormed the National Western Complex when they heard that 200 vaccine shots were available. It was the first indication they’d had that they might actually get the vaccine they were promised.
Then there were the dozens of people who had waited and waited and finally got appointments at a drive-through site at Cherry Creek High School on Monday morning. They were notified late Sunday that their appointments were canceled due to inclement weather. When they attempted to reschedule, they were informed that there were no available appointments for the foreseeable future.
Tough luck, suckers.
And the story of a cancer survivor on immunosuppressant medications who was told by providers in Denver that she was ineligible but learned that if she was willing to drive to Pueblo, there was a supermarket there that would vaccinate her. She hit the road.
The system, if you want to call it that, is a sadistic joke.
It’s not as if the need to distribute COVID-19 vaccine should have come as a surprise to state officials. They’ve had most of a year to develop a plan.
While a few states have done a good job distributing vaccines, most of the U.S. — the land of overnight delivery of everything from erectile dysfunction treatments to airplane parts — has failed miserably.
In Seattle, a woman walked three miles through 10 inches of snow to get her vaccination because she figured that was easier than trying to reschedule her appointment. She’s 90.
Ingrid Alongi, a Boulder software engineer, entrepreneur and investor, said she’s surprised that our tech-savvy governor hasn’t reveled in the opportunity to tackle this problem.
“I thought he had a task force from the tech community working on the COVID response,” she said. Instead, if you want a vaccine appointment in Colorado, “it’s like that episode from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ where they’re trying to buy Comic Con tickets.”
DO NOT STOP REFRESHING YOUR SCREENS!
C’mon, this is not cutting-edge science. This isn’t like developing a new vaccine for a novel coronavirus in six months.
A software engineer in New York invested a couple weeks and developed a website to enable people to register for vaccinations at 45 different locations across the city, all in one place. It cost him $50 (not counting his time).
“Sure, there are challenges,” Alongi said. “You have to work on how data is exposed; there are a lot of aggregators — a lot of different ways to get all that data in one place and some are hard, some are easy.
“But it’s surprising that our tech-forward governor hasn’t put together something like the website that was developed in New York.”
After all, this is the guy who made hundreds of millions creating an online platform for his parents’ greeting card company. He must know somebody who knows somebody who could do this.
It’s not entirely surprising that your average software engineer isn’t jumping at the chance to create this kind of platform, Alongi said.
Given the age demographic, few software geeks are even remotely eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, so they don’t have first-hand experience with the bumbling, nonsensical systems.
The 31-year-old engineer who created the website for New York became intimately familiar with the problem when he tried to get his mother an appointment.
So maybe long about June when vaccinations finally are available to the general public, some cheeky 19-year-old code-writer will devise a platform that will enable you to submit one registration form for all COVID-19 vaccine providers and receive timely and equitable access to appointments conveniently located in your very own neighborhood.
Until that happens, here’s my advice.
For grins, register at all the health care agencies on the state’s provider list.
Then, when you have lost all faith in that system, consult your friends, your hairdresser, your book club, your social media connections and the guy who collects the buggies from the parking lot at the King Soopers about where to score a hit of vaccine.
Pack supplies in case you need to drop everything and race to Montrose, Pueblo, Fort Lupton or wherever to get a shot because somebody failed to show up for an appointment.
When you get aced out of those options by the thousands of other folks doing exactly the same thing, log in to the websites for Walgreens, Safeway, Walmart — whatever — and refresh, refresh, refresh until some available appointments magically appear.
And remember, don’t give up.
After all, this is the only way you’re going to be able to hug your grandkids ever again.
It’s worth it.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.