By Bailee Rowles
When the Covid-19 vaccine was first announced for distribution, there were a lot of mixed emotions in response. Many were eager to put the pandemic in the past with the vaccine series, but there are still people that do not want to be vaccinated, and do not trust them. Some see vaccines as another thing to add to the “to-do” list, as many companies and schools are requiring the Covid-19 vaccine to work, go to school, or travel. However, few foresaw the biggest problem Americans have had with the vaccine: getting those who actually want the vaccine vaccinated.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations on their website for who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first, as vaccine availability is limited in the United States. These groups are labeled as “phases” such as phase 1a, 1b, etc. Phase 1a includes healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. Those in this group are offered the vaccine first, followed by Phase 1b: persons 75 years of age and older, and non-healthcare essential frontline workers. They are followed by the rest of the phases listed here: COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations.
Unfortunately, this method for administering COVID-19 vaccines works well in theory, but not in practice. Each state is tackling the distribution of these vaccines separately, which means that some states are succeeding more than others. These phases for the vaccine were announced in December of 2020, but some states still have not gotten past phases 1a and 1b almost four months later. Pennsylvania is one of these states where getting an appointment for the vaccine is tedious, whether you are required to get it, are under high risk or just want it to feel safer.
Bobbi Rowles is one of those lucky enough to find an appointment somewhat near her home of Shippensburg, PA. She travelled to Carlisle, PA, which is about 45 minutes away, to get her two vaccines. “Trying to get an appointment was hard,” Rowles had stated, recalling the struggle to obtain an appointment. “You don’t know where to start,” she lamented. “But I needed the vaccine for my job, so I had to find a place to go, even if I had to drive out of state for it.”
However, Rowles was luckier than other Pennsylvanians who need the vaccine. Bobbi’s mother, Susie, is 86 years old, and at very high risk of getting COVID-19. However, Susie does not have internet access or cellphone access, and does not know where to begin even looking for an appointment, let alone how to book one online. When asked about the difficulties of getting the vaccine, Susie tried to avoid being frustrated at the situation. “I just don’t know how to work all of these electronics,” she said with a laugh. “Everything is online nowadays, and I just don’t know how to work that stuff. That’s what I have my kids for.”
Rowles has been trying to get her mother an appointment for the past couple of weeks, but it has proven to be even harder than finding her own appointment. She said there are too many difficulties with trying to schedule an appointment for another person. She does not know Susie’s availability, any of her insurance information or how far she could drive.
“I don’t trust her driving for one minute!” Rowles said in reference to her elderly mother. “I don’t want her driving to Carlisle for the vaccine. I don’t even want her driving to Chambersburg!”
While some people travel out of state for the vaccine, where it is more accessible, the elderly are unable to make that same drive, and they are at high-risk for getting Covid-19.
The Covid-19 vaccine and distribution plans are solid in theory. However, some states are conducting this distribution better than others, which is making it hard to stay safe and healthy. Bobbi and Susie Rowles are just two examples of people who are struggling to find vaccine appointments, and are both either at high risk or are required to have the vaccine. Hopefully, as time goes on, Covid-19 vaccines will become more accessible people across the country.