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A first-person perspective on the region's bumpy, but increasingly successful vaccine rollout

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Governor Roy Cooper announced last week that North Carolina will make Group 4 vaccine eligibility a week sooner than originally planned. But technical issues continue to hamper coronavirus vaccine distribution across the country.

 

“And what’s your name?"

 

"Katelyn Freund, I have a vaccine appointment."

 

"Okay.” 

It’s a steady stream of folks checking in at the Walgreens COVID vaccination site in Burgaw, North Carolina in early March. 

[Pharmacy Technician:] “We’re doing 60 shots today. [Wow.] 2 every fifteen minutes.” 

 

I drove 30 minutes to be here, for my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 

And I look...a little different than the other folks in line.

[Katelyn Freund:] "What do you mean? I’m 67.”

 

[other voice:] "She said ‘I’m 67’” 

 

I’m actually in my twenties, and I’m the youngest person in line that morning by a few decades. And I wasn’t in one of the designated groups approved for the vaccine yet. So, how did I get a vaccine before people like my parents?

[Pharmacy Technician:] “We had a glitch.” 

 

Technical issues with vaccination websites have run rampant during the COVID vaccine rollout--and North Carolina isn’t immune. At the vaccination station I’m at in Burgaw, an automated scheduling system underbooked appointments, leaving valuable vaccine doses at risk of expiring before use. So for a brief afternoon, the Walgreens in Burgaw booked anyone who could come in to avoid wasting those doses.

[Katelyn Freund:] "I know you guys had some issues with… [Pharmacy Technician:] "the appointment scheduler."

 

[Katelyn Freund:] "Is that all sorted out?"

[Pharmacy Technician:] "We're getting there. We think it's good now. Just computer stuff, you know?” 

 

 

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Credit Katelyn Freund
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The Walgreens vaccination station in Burgaw, North Carolina, experienced computer issues during the vaccine rollout, but technical problems in the vaccine distribution have occurred across the country.

In Georgia, a computer scheduled hundreds of people for the same time slot, and allowed three times the number of people to sign up for an appointment.

In New York, hundreds of seniors lined up one mid-February morning, after being told to come for a second vaccine appointment between 7 and 8AM--only to learn the appointment offer was a computer error.

Other health officials at their wits end with vaccine websites resorted to Eventbrite to schedule vaccine shots. Typically, the site is used for organizing low-stakes events like bar crawls.

 

[Pharmacist:] "Here's your receipt and everything, information on there."

[Katelyn Freund:] "Okay. Do you guys call me for the second or do I call you?"

[Pharmacist:] "We thought the machine was going to do all this. The machine has not been acting like it's supposed to. We’ll see” 

 

After waiting the recommended fifteen minutes for side effects, I get in my car and squirt hand sanitizer in my palm before peeling off my double masks. A fresh bandaid on my left arm peaks out my t-shirt sleeve. In four weeks I can get the second dose, and two weeks after that I’ll be fully vaccinated. Then, for the first time in nearly a year...I’ll be able to hug my parents.

Now it’s just a matter of getting my second shot appointment.