Thursday, March 11, 2021 / by Jenny Carroll
Monday morning I found myself with an open web browser and what felt like a thousand tabs along the top of my screen. Walgreens, HEB, CVS, Austin Public Health (APH), Walmart, Sam’s Club, and others. Every hour on the hour I refreshed each screen to see if notification of COVID-19 vaccination doses had appeared on any site. As you may have guessed, none did.
Sure, I could have driven six hours to Odessa, TX for the off chance of receiving it from one of the cities listed on HEB’s site with doses but there are simply too many issues with that endeavor. No, we’re sticking close to home for this. We’d registered weeks ago on the Austin Public Health site but hadn’t heard anything from them on when to expect the eagerly awaited email saying it was time to schedule our appointments. If you’ve spent any time looking online for available vaccines then this all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
A little before 6:00 PM that evening, I received a phone call from a friend saying, “Quick! Get on APH’s site. They’ve just released 10,000 doses and you have to log in to get a number for the queue.” Since we’d pre-registered and I have the (mis)fortune of being a two-time skin cancer survivor, I meet the 1B qualifications. Twenty+ years of biopsies and skin freezes at my bi-annual dermatologist visits have finally paid off with dividends.
With a wave of relief and excitement that the APH screen finally said something other than, “There are currently no appointments available,” I found myself 5,000ish in line. What looked like a progress bar for an update or a download appeared at the bottom of the screen with a little blue stick figure walking in place to indicate the duration of my estimated queue time. “Your estimated queue time is Over An Hour,” is all it said.
For two hours we watched the blue figure walk slowly along the progress bar as the queue numbers dropped and folks either made their appointments or got frustrated and dropped off the system. It doesn’t say. But, as that number crept closer and closer to zero the more excited I felt. Sometimes the number would seem to freeze but when we refreshed the tab, the number would drop substantially each time. It’s important to note, do NOT hit the back button and make sure your security settings allow for cookies so that your place in line is not lost if accidentally disconnected. It says this on the wait screen but it’s a good reminder.
If you would like to try this also, then expect that when the queue line strikes zero, you will be immediately prompted to re-login. I received an error message each time I tried to login but if you put .aph at the end of your email address and enter your password then it should get you right in. It’ll look like this:
The site will prompt you to answer the same pre-registration questions to determine your eligibility and then you will be redirected to the scheduling screen. There were several time slots available at their two locations so you should have no trouble finding a time. Be prepared to be flexible if you need to leave work to make your vaccine appointment. I know not everyone has the ability to leave during the day so choose your appointment time accordingly. Keep in mind, you may be in the queue for a few hours. The whole process for me took about 2.5 hours.
It is my understanding, but you may want to verify this independently, that APH will release new COVID Vaccine appointments on Monday evenings and sometime on Thursdays if there are any left over. You'll need a stable internet connection to access the site. If you know someone who does not have access to the internet, you can help them by going through this process together with them over your connection. Inequities do exist in this system so as a good citizen, do what you can to help everyone who wants one get access to a vaccine. The sooner we reach herd immunity the better off we'll all be.
Good luck to you!
The 1B Vaccine Qualifications are:
•People 65 years of age and older (although I believe this has been adjusted to 50 years of age) • People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to: • Cancer • Chronic kidney disease • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies • Solid organ transplantation • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher) • Pregnancy • Sickle cell disease • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
This article is the written account of Jenny Carroll's quest to access the COVID vaccine and does not represent a guarantee by Stanberry Realtors that your experience will be the same.