Today the Weekend Editrix got shotTagged:
Today the Weekend Editrix got shot. The good way: Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b.
Signing up for a vaccination slot
This was, by now long-established custom, extremely difficult. Competing for a vaccination slot is rather like gladiatorial combat, trying to get a slot and fill out the form before someone else finishes and takes it from you. Fortunately for the Weekend Editrix, we’ve learned some gladiatorial technique.
The first item was to get her on the waiting list in our state’s registry for the mass vaccination sites. I was vaccinated at one of the mass sites, and was confident they’d work well once we booked the appointment. With the new waiting list, there would be no scramble for appointments; she’d just get an email when a slot was open.
This would almost certainly work, but the line is about 900,000 people long! So, time to find a shorter way if possible.
I tried all the usual things: make a Walgreen’s account and check their queue each day, check all the local hospitals that show any availability, in fact check every site within 50 miles of Chez Weekend.
So I tried a hack I’d heard about from several sources, and which most recently appeared in Boston Magazine.  (Of course, since it’s now public, the ‘hole’ will almost certainly be patched, because everything is optimized to keep all of us maximally frustrated.) Here’s the trick, in broad outline, to coax a vaccine appointment out of CVS:
- Go to the CVS web site for COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Do this at the time new appointments drop, which appears to be in the dead of night at 12-1am and 4-5am.
- If I were to click on Massachusetts immediately, it would tell me all appointments across the entire state are taken.
- So don’t do that: pretend you’re in another state, one with a low vaccine uptake rate. I used Alabama.
- Answer a few questions, all of which essentially probe for whether you currently are COVID-free. Then it will ask where you want to receive the vaccine, and here I clicked on Massachusetts. At that point, you’re past the “no appointments available” front page, and can see the appointments near your zip code as they appear.
- If there are no appointments immediately, wait 15 minutes. The hold on a slot while people fill out forms last 15 minutes. If somebody is slow filling out the form (fumbling for their insurance information, for example), then it is freed and you can grab it.
Now… that’s absurd. Nobody should have to go through such ballet to get a simple vaccine appointment! But… short of waiting for the state’s mass vaccination sites to clear their queue, here we are.
And whaddaya know: it worked! She got an appointment at a nearby CVS for a Pfizer vaccine a few days later, and automatically scheduled an appointment for the booster 21 days later. Bizarre as the above procedure was, it was nonetheless easier than what I had to do a few weeks earlier.
So… progress. Of a sort.
Getting the first dose
We drove all of 10min to get to what is very nearly our neighborhood drugstore at the appointed time.
There was a kerfuffle when the person running check-in insisted the Weekend Editrix had received a text on her phone for checkin. It took showing her the phone 3 times to convince her that was not the case, but she was still insistent that it should be there. In the end, we got sent to the pharmacy department for manual check-in, where they were used to it.
Frankly, the whole vaccine scheduling process has struck me as being full of people who insist the system is right and good and working, when the evidence in front of their eyes is that it is not. As an aspiring Bayesian rationalist, I find this hard to understand, and harder to deal with. But… simple stubborn persistence paid off.
Herein illustrated is the Weekend Editrix’s portside dorsal… arm. (She has arms; I have tentacles. Just so we’re clear.) She’s getting a syringe of lovely BNT162/PF-07302048, a.k.a. tozinameran/Comirnaty.
Note that unlike your humble Weekend Editor’s first or second dose, the nurse here is properly gloved. (Thanks to the medical members of my family for pointing that out.) Perhaps this level of sanitation is a courtesy extended only to Japanese clients, like the Weekend Editrix, who are culturally more attuned to how clean everything is… or is not.
Is anything getting better?
The vaccine process itself was, for both of us, quite smooth. Bravo to the medical personnel who actually did the work. Well done.
The scheduling business, on the other hand, was a nightmare: a couple days for me madly refreshing multiple browser tabs, and staying up late at night to exploit a back door for her. Nobody seems to care that the web sites for scheduling appointments are actively hostile, or the people “facilitating” them are delusional. It’s not clear to me who exactly isn’t listening, or why, or how to change that.
The Weekend Sequelae
She’s only 1hr 29min into it right now, with no side effects, as expected. Stay tuned tomorrow for side-effect-blogging.
The Weekend Editrix, as I’m sure you’re eager to know, is fine. Some mild sensation of fever last night (actual temp: normal + 0.6°C), and today a slightly sore arm, a little fatigued… and that’s it.
Pretty good result!
Notes & References
1: S Buell, “An Insider’s Guide to Getting a Vaccine Appointment in Massachusetts”, Boston Magazine, 2021-Mar-24. ↩