LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG
I had my first COVID-19 vaccination Sunday, Jan. 26. To get an appointment, I went through all the protocols and algorithms that I discussed previously in this column.
I was able to find an appointment Sunday in Plattsburgh. A day later I found an appointment for Utica on Feb. 3 and canceled the Plattsburgh appointment and then I kept looking for something closer and sooner.
Lucky for me, some close friends were also going through the various procedures and last Friday, Jan. 24, they found Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs was scheduling appointments for the next two days; this past weekend.
They had just scheduled theirs and immediately called me and told me about it.
I went online, followed the protocols, and filled out forms. I put in a request for an appointment for Saturday, and up popped my appointment, assigned to Sunday.
I have no complaints. In fact, that system worked better than the state system inasmuch as it asked you when you wanted an appointment but, regardless, apparently gave you the next available.
If the appointment you asked for was already taken by the time your request went in, you’d still get one without having to reenter all that information.
Unfortunately, the state Department of Health’s online registration requires you to put in a great deal of information, then you pick the time from what you saw earlier in the process, and if the appointment that was in that spot had already been taken by somebody else while you were doing the application, you have to go all the way back into the beginning to try and find next available appointment.
Somebody needs to fix their software.
This is where the unfairness of the system comes in. I am trying to help some of my (more) elderly friends get appointments.
For a few days I could get appointments in April, which seem too far away for them, but I suggested they take them and continue to look for earlier ones.
One couple felt the location I found was too far to drive. Another couple, that something else would come up sooner. They are still waiting for something to open up in Cooperstown, to try and schedule that.
The problem with all of this is that you have to be both computer literate and computer savvy.
You have to have an Internet connection, which is something that many people in our community don’t have.
You have to have a great deal of patience because when you try and schedule an appointment to see what’s available, frequently by the time you finish the request it’s gone.
Many of my elderly friends still do not have appointments because they do not know how to use the system.
I offered to help but that requires giving me the medical information to put on the forms and I can understand why they prefer not to do that.
All the systems for making appointments need to have a call-in option for the people who don’t know how to use a computer well or don’t have access to internet. This could be an automated system.
For example, the system would ask how far you are willing to drive, medical screening questions, and if you want the first available appointment or are looking for a specific date and time.
Eventually it would generate an appointment for you, which you would either accept or decline, and it would mail you the appointment ticket if there was enough time before you were to be seen.
A system like the above would give the elderly (and the non-Internet population) a chance of getting an appointment relatively soon. We also need a system with live people on the phone who could help. It’s the least we can do for our most vulnerable.