Lessons on the Vaccine: Be Your Own Advocate, but Also Your Grandma’s (Mostly Hers)

A COVID-19 vaccination shot recently administered at a longterm care facility.EXPAND
A COVID-19 vaccination shot recently administered at a longterm care facility.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Sliepka
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Multiple registration sites, mixed messages, broken promises and lack of outreach have created frustration with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. One significant contributor to the confusion came two weeks ago when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott opened the floodgates to Phase 1B, catching county health departments off guard. Abbott read a report that hadn’t been updated indicating vaccines were just sitting on shelves, but they weren’t.

Phase 1B includes anyone 16 years of age or older with just about any medical condition, or 9.5 million Texans. But, the 1.8 million healthcare workers and long-term care patients in Phase 1A still haven't received all their doses.

Needless to say, local governments have scrambled to establish both registration systems and locations for people now expecting to be vaccinated, though those efforts have come with their own set of problems in Dallas.

All the while, hospitals are putting tents in waiting rooms because of an overflow of patients. For three days straight, more than 400 Texans died because of COVID-19. Fortunately, it appears Dallas County officials feel that sense of urgency. Within a week they got a mass vaccination site up and running at Fair Park, and for several days last week, anyone 75 or older could just show up and get a shot, no appointment needed.

So, now that we know why this is messy, here’s the path forward, as best as we can tell.

Vaccine Hubs
The state recently designated 28 vaccination hubs across the state, including the one at Fair Park. Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern are also hubs and should open soon. Anyone can sign up through Dallas Health and Human Services for all three of those hubs. They’re all pulling from the same list. And you don’t have to live in Dallas County to register at those sites.

There's also a registration hotline: 469-749-9900. The hotline hours are  8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Registration assistance is available in English and Spanish. (They're closed on Monday, Jan. 18, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.)

Hubs Versus Your Doctor
The main difference between a hub and, say, a pharmacy or your doctor is scale and access; the hubs are designed to hold a lot of people (for, hopefully, when they get a lot of vaccines) and anyone can get a shot, no matter what county they reside in.

When there is more availability, hospital systems like Baylor, for instance, should start pulling from their census, which is anyone who has visited a doctor in their network in the past three years. Hubs are an effort to get the most vulnerable populations first and those who may not have a “medical home.”

Be Patiently Persistent
When you go to a site to sign up for a vaccine, if you get a message that the form, especially for Dallas County, is not currently accepting responses, just keep trying. Dallas County's registration form is limited to 50,000 registration entries each. Once a form maxes out, Dallas County’s IT team switches it out with another. Be persistent, but patient.

Be An Advocate
Lauren Trimble, chief of staff for County Judge Clay Jenkins, encourages people to sign up through multiple sites. You can sign up through the county, ALL of the hubs that you’re willing to travel to (road trip!), your primary doctor, the hospital they’re affiliated with and pharmacies. Sign high, sign low, sign everywhere.

Also, might be a good time to be an advocate for older people in your circle. Maybe they flew just under measuring stick for 75 years or older at Fair Park, but they took you to see Jaws when you were 3, then Poltergeist when you were 7. They even locked you outside when you went in and out too much, so you owe them for being raised with character and grit. Help them sign-up.

Be Patient
Trimble emphasizes that there are still very limited amounts of vaccine, but the supply should steadily ramp up. Who knows when we're getting what. Long hard sigh ... we just have to be patient.

Party Tip
Keep an eye on that third horse pulling up around the outside. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is the only one-and-done vaccine and looks like it will become available in February. Who doesn't like a good closer? 

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