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COVID 2021

Team Lookout prepares for Vax Day by doing its best to get appointments — here’s what happened

While most years April 15 is Tax Day, this one has even greater significance — at least in California where everyone age 16 and up will now be eligible for vaccination. Here are three editors’ vaccine hunt stories in advance of Vax Day.

Howdy, everyone — in honor of the special-ness that Thursday embodies for so many people in California, we’re doing something special with our COVID PM newsletter: Dedicating it to the Vax Day so many more of us are anticipating now that anyone over the age of 16 will be eligible for inoculation.

We’ve heard about, and documented, so many stories of those who have already walked the vax path. Now that it’s “my turn” for so many more, what should we all expect? What can we learn from each other’s experiences?

Our editor crew here at Lookout is all under-50 (two of us just barely!), so you could say Thursday has held a prominent place on our calendars. While we each are comfortable being mostly behind the journalistic curtain (editors tend to be that way), we all felt a civic duty of sorts to share our experience trying to hunt down that elusive needle in a haystack this week.

For some of us, it was way easier than we anticipated in advance of the big day right out of the gates; for others, the challenge proved a bit more onerous.

We want to hear from as many others as possible. But first, here are our stories:

Tulsi Kamath, 29, new to California

Sometime in January or February, I inputted my information in the state’s MyTurn website like many others did. But after reading about complications and spotty user interface on the site, I wasn’t sure the state’s system would notify me when it was “my turn.”

Being new to Santa Cruz County, I don’t yet have a primary care provider, so I wasn’t sure how I would be able to get a vaccine dose — especially with public health officials encouraging most people to go through their doctor.

I began checking for appointments on the CVS and Walgreens websites on Monday, ahead of the expansion of eligibility. The sites were a bit confusing and showed me there was no availability of appointments — and I didn’t see a place to get in line. So, the next step was calling local pharmacies.

I “got in line” for a vaccine at both Horsnyder Pharmacy and Westside Pharmacy & Medical Supply, with both places telling me I would get a call once they had a slot for me once I was eligible after April 15.

Then today, I called Doctors on Duty and was able to schedule an appointment for next week, which I promptly told my other new-to-California colleague.

Chris Fusco, 48, new to California

My vaccine quest began Monday. Like Tulsi, I’ve yet to select a primary care physician or health system. So I began my hunt by registering on MyTurn, knowing full well that the earliest I’d get notified about a potential appointment was Thursday, when I officially become eligible for vaccination.

I also called the state’s vaccine hotline, where a friendly voice told me to log on to MyTurn “very, very early” on Thursday — she suggested no later than 5:30 a.m. — and check for appointment availability. She couldn’t schedule me before then per the state’s eligibility policy.

And thus began my website crawl to see if I could schedule a shot for Thursday or beyond.

Walgreens: “No appointments within 25-mile radius of my ZIP code within the next five days.”

CVS: No appointments available in Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Watsonville or San Jose.

Costco: I tried to book in Santa Cruz, but was told that the “resource you selected was not available.”

No go at Safeway either.

Our vaccine tipsheet here at Lookout pointed me to a handful of nifty tools to check availability near my home. The sites were great, but, again, no ability to schedule in advance because of my age.

On Wednesday, Tulsi shared her news: She got an appointment through Doctors on Duty. I called the Santa Cruz office and am now set up for my first dose of Moderna on Monday. (Memo to already vaccinated wife: Please remind me to bring my ID and insurance card!)

Mark Conley, 47, Kaiser member

My thought, like many others between the ages of 16-50, was to see if I could get out in front of any potential mass vaccination race madness by scoping out possibilities in advance. That move paid off well with Kaiser: I have an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine at KP Arena tomorrow afternoon.

All it took was an email to my primary care doctor on Monday that said: ‘Hey, doc: I become eligible on Thursday and I’m hoping to schedule an appointment.’ Less than an hour later I received an email notification of my appointment.

Had it been for Wednesday, would I have felt like I was “jumping the line” and asked for another date? Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have to entertain any ethical quandaries — and for that I’m grateful.

Will there be any Moderna aftereffects to stifle the happy vaccine dance that I’m certain will break out after that jab? Stay tuned.

So, those are our stories. Now we want to hear from you. Or your loved ones. Point them in our direction so we can help each other out as much as possible. news@lookoutlocal.com

Buying locally produced food and goods benefits you and your community in more ways than you think.

And now to the day’s headlines ...

‘Try all the methods’

Santa Cruz County Health Services Director Mimi Hall during Wednesday's press conference.
(Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency)

VACCINE WATCH: Santa Cruz County health officials convened for a press conference today for a COVID-19 update in advance of vaccine eligibility expanding on Thursday. The officials remained positive about local infection rates, which remain low, and vaccination progress, but cautioned that demand is certain to exceed supply when vaccine eligibility opens to all adults on Thursday. Health services director Mimi Hall said they “are prepared for [expanding eligibility] across all of our providers,” but emphasized that “eligibility doesn’t necessarily mean access.” Here’s what our Mallory Pickett gleaned from the presser.

4 things to know about the J&J pause

J&J

VACCINE WATCH: More than 560,000 Americans have died of COVID in the past year — or 1 in 586 people. An individual’s risk of dying of or being hospitalized with COVID is far higher than the risk of getting a rare blood clot from the J&J vaccine. Meanwhile, the risk of getting a blood clot is also far higher if you have COVID. Kaiser Health News lays out the details here.

CDC vaccine advisers put off decision on Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine (CNN)
Will Johnson & Johnson woes make it harder to get COVID-19 vaccine in California? (LA Times)
A key component of J&J vaccine could explain link to extremely rare blood clots (NBC News)

Approximately 16 percent of hospitality and tourism workers lost their job in 2020 due to a permanent closure or layoff....

More from here & elsewhere

Dr. Fauci on Tucker Carlson’s comment: Typical crazy conspiracy theory (CNN)
A Year In, Here’s What We Know About Vitamin D For Preventing COVID (NPR)
Surgeon says pausing J&J vaccine for younger populations makes sense, but could be lifted for older age groups (CNBC)
San Francisco releases huge, detailed list of new reopenings and expansions (SF Gate)
‘This result is not unexpected’: 39 vaccinated residents from Bay Area county test Covid positive (SF Gate)
The mRNA Vaccines Are Looking Better and Better (The Atlantic)

As always, thanks for reading — and please consider supporting our journalism by becoming a member. We can’t do it without you.

Mark Conley
Deputy Managing Editor