Trying to get a vaccine shot is no simple feat

There’s a big mystery surrounding the distribution of vaccine, like a secret society who makes up rules for different counties, who decides the who, what, when, and where.

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Katrina Haynes from Clinton Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School, 1147 N Western Ave in Ukrainian Village, Thursday,

AP Photos

“Remember these three words: penny, chair, apple.”

Last week I saw my doctor hoping to score a COVID vaccination. The appointment was booked as an annual wellness exam, compliments of Medicare. It began with a cognitive assessment — repeating three key terms. The words were followed by my internist’s feeble attempt to distract me.

“Now draw a clock using twelve numbers showing the time as 3:30.”

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I wasn’t about to fail either of these tests. My picture of a clock wasn’t a work of art, with its lopsided circle and crooked numbers, but I took great pride in placing the hands in the right direction and yes, I drew the hour hand shorter than the minute hand. I admit the integers weren’t evenly spaced, but who cares, I was busy chanting three words in my head.

After receiving high marks on the clock drawings, I was asked to recite the three words which I did in perfect order. “Penny, chair, apple.”

“Good,” she said as she charted my response.

“You might want to switch your three words next year,” I told her. “It’s more of a challenge.”

She smiled and said I had an excellent memory.

After I passed the cognitive portion, my internist checked my chart.

“You’re overdue for . . .”

“A COVID injection?” I interrupted.

Her reply sounded like a recording, “I know nothing about the specifics of scheduling, only that it will be offered to my patients. Not sure when.”

As for the COVID-19 vaccination, we all know it’s a limited supply, offered at random or by ‘class’ at this point–1a, 1b, and 1c. It’s about who you know — preferably a ‘wise guy” to a doc.

I have 12 vaccine links on my computer. I’m signed up and ready to go. It’s like speed dating but winding up with a shot instead of a new beau or gambling with high stakes (a diagnosis of COVID). If a cancellation pops up, you’ve hit the jackpot. All I see are bold letters at the bottom of the page: THERE ARE NO SLOTS AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME. PLEASE TRY AGAIN.”

On a recent morning my husband and I woke at 7 a.m., armed and ready with our cell phones and computers. Our right forefingers rested easy on the trigger (trackpad) with our cursors lined up ready to click. Like professional video gamers, we vied for the win. I saw a few spots open, but before I clicked, they were taken. My husband landed one of them, yelling ‘bingo’ while I watched a spinning beachball orbiting the screen. Our parlay strategy failed.

OK, I get it, everyone is trying to schedule at the same time and it’s overloading the system. There’s a big mystery surrounding the distribution of vaccine, like a secret society who makes up rules for different counties, who decides the who, what, when, and where.

“Get on the Walgreens link at midnight after you set your cell phone to London time or pretend you’re in Berlin an hour earlier and click the link.” Just yesterday, the trick was to wake at 6 a.m. and begin clicking. Now I’ve developed trigger finger.

A few friends are driving hours to secure a needle in their arm or flying private jets to a different state hoping to be one of the lucky ones. Some of my younger pals said they received the vaccine because an important acquaintance made an appointment for them — someone had an ‘in’ with somebody high up.

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So you see, one can get an appointment with a modicum of luck and knowing the right people or going with little or no sleep for a few nights, getting rundown and being more susceptible to COVID. Everyone has their theory.

Each time I receive a text from Cook County Health, Walgreens, or Jewel Osco I’m ecstatic, thinking this might be my lucky day. But it turns out to be a tease, “We’re just letting you know you are on our list for receiving the vaccine.”

For now, I’ll keep networking, thinking about long road trips to nearby states, sharing new links to click on, using my left hand to give my right a break. All with the hope of winning the lotto.

At least I know my memory is still intact, “Penny, chair, apple.”

Terry Ratner has been a nurse and free-lance writer for the past 22 years. She divides her time between Chicago and Phoenix.

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