Gov. Greg Abbott’s order ending mask mandates in Texas has added even more urgency to the growing frustration about the rollout and availability of coronavirus vaccines.
It’s too bad, because the overall news on vaccinations and the battle against COVID-19 continues to be good. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that won tentative federal approval promises easier, faster inoculation than the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna versions. The U.S. is administering 2 million shots a day and picking up speed. President Joe Biden projects that we’ll have enough shots to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May.
At a time when we should be cautiously optimistic, though, individual frustrations and confusion around vaccine distribution are rising. Local leaders are irritated, too, that they’ve worked to get infrastructure in place to move much quicker than the supply of vaccines allocated to the area allows.
We can’t offer you a foolproof way to get the vaccine soon. But we do have some tips to limit your frustration and prepare for when shots are readily available.
REGISTER FOR THE VACCINE
This seems obvious, but every Tarrant County adult should sign up for the public health department’s list. Right now, shots are still limited to the first groups — essential workers, those with specific health vulnerabilities, those 65 and older and, under a new state policy, teachers and child care workers.
Even if you’re not in those groups, sign up now to reserve a place in line, County Judge Glen Whitley says.
“As we do get the increase in vaccines and as we do open up the other categories, they’ll be pulled based upon when they registered,” he told us recently.
The site is at tarrantcounty.com/covidshot. For those who don’t want to use a computer, the county’s hotline (817-248-6299) offers registration from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. daily. It’s an automated system, but press 4 or 7 and you will talk to a person to sign up. Initial wait times were hours-long, but a beefed-up call center has reduced that substantially, county officials say.
If you registered, even weeks ago, and haven’t received an appointment yet, that’s not unusual. If you have a registration number with the county, you can check the status on the website. You can also call the hotline to check, but either way, you won’t get much of an estimate on when your shot will be available.
Whatever you do, don’t re-register. It won’t help you get a shot any faster, and it could gum up the works for everyone.
TRY PHARMACIES, GROCERY STORES
Right now, because of limited vaccine supply, getting a shot is a little like a raffle: the more tickets you have, the better your chance of getting one soon.
So, don’t register only at the county site. Sign up at each of the big pharmacy chains — CVS (800-679-9691), Walgreens (800-925-4733) and Walmart (call individual stores) — along with Kroger (call individual pharmacies) and other grocery stores.
There are also Facebook groups with volunteers helping people who aren’t tech-savvy register. If you accept help from anyone you don’t know, don’t give them any information other than your name, address, phone number and other essentials. No one needs your Social Security number or credit card information to register you. Nor should you have to pay to register or for the vaccine.
Another tactic some vaccine-seekers have used is to show up at the end of the day to see if a vaccination site has shots it needs to administer before they expire. It’s a gamble, but if you go, don’t show up early and wait in line. The sites are crowded enough.
There’s hope on the horizon for vaccinations to pick up quickly. County officials are planning programs to reach out to underserved communities and the homebound. Until then, patience and persistence are the best tools available.
And that applies to mask-wearing and social distancing, too. The governor’s order removes mandates upon businesses, but smart ones are keeping requirements in place. Until vaccinations are widespread, say, this summer, we remain at risk of another spike of hospitalizations and deaths.
Do your part for yourself by getting ready to get the shot as soon as you can. Do your part for your community by following health guidelines, hopefully just a little bit longer.