A 40-year-old mother in Oregon on the messy vaccine appointment process: 'It's like trying to find a golden ticket'

A 40-year-old mother in Oregon on the messy vaccine appointment process: 'It's like trying to find a golden ticket'
Amy da Silva started hunting for a vaccine appointment two weeks ago.Amy da Silva
  • Amy da Silva is a 40-year-old economist who lives in southeast Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.
  • She says she's spent nights waking up at 2 a.m. to battle the state's flawed registration system for COVID vaccine appointments.
  • This is what her experience was like, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.

My husband and I recently became eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine under Oregon's distribution plan. However, we were advised by friends and colleagues to start looking for appointments beforehand and reserve dates for after we're eligible.

I started seriously looking for a vaccine appointment two weeks ago. It's like trying to search for the golden ticket.

It feels like I've spent every free moment I've had looking for a vaccine. It amounts to having a part-time job with about three to six hours per day in total. This includes research, refreshing registration pages with pharmacy websites, and coordinating with my spouse.

At first, I had no idea how we were supposed to find an appointment. I thought my doctor would call me and I'd just stroll into his office and get the shot. But soon I realized if you're waiting on a phone call, you're going to be waiting forever.
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When Gov. Kate Brown accelerated the timeline for children to go back to in-person learning, my anxiety levels increased because my elementary-aged son has asthma and was going to be out in public more often. I knew I needed to find a vaccine appointment, I just didn't know where to look.

I came across a Facebook group for "vaccine hunters" in Portland, and there I was able to find all kinds of resources.

I've used Facebook to find and connect with other mothers and parents, and even though it wasn't the first place I looked, I was able to find relevant information about where and when I should be looking for vaccine appointments.
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Before I joined the vaccine hunters Facebook group, I didn't know pharmacies were a big part of the government's rollout plan. So I started monitoring the local pharmacies' websites and found out which locations were distributing which vaccine. I was initially interested in the Johnson & Johnson because it was only one shot. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night, between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., to look for appointments because I knew some pharmacies reset their appointments then.

There were a few times when I'd find an appointment, begin the registration process by inputting all my information, and then right when I clicked "next" the screen would say there were no longer appointments available.

I signed up for Get Vaccinated Oregon, the state's eligibility tool that allows you to see when you're able to get the vaccine, get notified when you are, and how to schedule an appointment. Of course, right after I registered with Get Vaccinated Oregon, I received a big red "x" - meaning I was not yet eligible. The state's registration system is flawed, wordy, and has considerable lag.
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As a full-time working mom, I don't have a lot of time to read a vast website that has so many links, is disorganized, and cluttered with information. I usually only have five minutes between meetings to find an appointment, so I would have preferred the essential information to be at the top and easily accessible.

It felt like a research project trying to figure out when and where I could get the vaccine.

The struggle has been discouraging because all I want to do is protect my son and my family. My husband and I have been willing to drop any work-related meetings and travel miles from our home to get a vaccine.

We understand the demand is at an all-time high, the supply is inconsistent, and the coordination between the state and the federal government varies, but we can't help but feel frustrated and left out.
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We felt like giving up on the search, but right when we decided to stop looking, I saw a post in the Facebook group on Monday afternoon that a new vaccination site in Salem opened up and released new appointments. Finally, we were able to schedule appointments on Saturday, April 10. Although the vaccination location is over an hour drive away from our home, and doesn't offer the vaccine we wanted, we were happy to be able to finally register for a vaccine. The tension has definitely lessened throughout the house, and there are a lot more smiles knowing we secured a vaccination appointment.

If there's anything I've learned from this experience, it's to have hope.

The process is frustrating and anxiety-driven, but I think if you're able to lean on your community for help and find people who are willing to share resources and information, that's the best you can do. It's important to be an advocate for yourself and your family, but especially for strangers you meet on social media. The more we work as a community, the quicker everyone can get vaccinated. Because if you're waiting around for someone to contact you, you're going to be waiting a long time.

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