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Fiske: My Shot in the Dark

Woman getting shot
A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination event in January. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

How odd that I woke one morning last summer and found myself to be 65. Weirder still, I had entered a high-risk age group to die from COVID-19.

No panic. I did what they told me: masking, social distancing, working from home. I felt fortunate, and in January was eager to claim my first senior perk and move to the front of the eligibility line for the COVID vaccine.

Following the advice of Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, I filled out the “Vaccination Interest Form'' on the Henrico County Health Department’s website, which said I would be given updates on how to register for the shot. I was troubled that the county offers no verification it has received the form.

February came, no word. My sister in Ohio posted a Facebook picture of her getting the vaccine; so did a college friend in Delaware and a high school pal in Maryland. How hard can it be in Virginia?

On Wednesday, I called Henrico’s vaccine hotline twice to see if it could offer any tips. Both times, the phone rang repeatedly then switched to a frantic busy signal. I called the health department’s main number and a recording gave me another number (not the hotline) to call for COVID information. I dialed and got a recording that my “call cannot be completed at this time.”

Click. Dial tone.

I called the health department’s main number again, pushed the operator button and explained my problem to a nice woman who gave me a third number to call. After many rings, I got the dreaded busy signal.

What about CVS, which began giving shots this week? A recording at the local store said to access a website listing available locations across the country. Stores in 34 Virginia cities and counties were giving shots and everyone was booked up. I checked again Thursday. Same story.

I called my physician’s office. They had no advice. Same with my cardiologist.

Tried the county hotline one last time and, lo and behold, someone answered. She said if I had filled out the Vaccination Interest Form, I’d be notified at some point of good opportunities to register for a shot. Right now, they’re working their way down by the age of seniors. In the meantime, she advised me to pursue all other options that might be available at CVS, hospitals or doctors’ offices.

“You mean I have to hunt,” I asked.

“I’m afraid so,” she said.

Look, I’m not saying I deserve a vaccination more than other seniors or people with health risks. My point is to share how confounding the system is at this moment. A colleague asked what I plan to do next. I don’t know, but I won’t be hunting at the break of dawn.

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