Saturday, February 27, 2021

Still Life with Robin: NOW They All Want Me!

CDC: Vaccinate with Confidence

by Peggy Robin

Six weeks ago, I wrote a column about how people had to wait for the vaccine distributors to decide whether they would take your call. Once you became eligible --either by age, medical condition, or type of employment-- you couldn’t just pick up the phone or go online and schedule it whenever you felt like it. You either had to win the vaccination appointment race online (being one of the select few to enter all your registration details, type in the captcha, and then complete the time/location selection, all before the website timed out or crashed) – or you had to navigate a treacherous phone queue in the quest to leave a message that would result in a call-back, allowing you to have one of those coveted appointment slots.

Because I’m a speedy typist and have lots of experience with online tasks (I do run the biggest neighborhood listserv in the US! That skill turned out to be good for something!), I was one of the lucky ones who got an appointment for a shot within the first two weeks that they were offered to my age group. I’ve now had the second shot. So I am now simply watching from the sidelines as others continue to scramble and overcome all the crazy obstacles between them and the shot. It’s a weird feeling.

What makes it even weirder is that now, all of a sudden, vaccine providers are pursuing me. Now they’re telling me how much they want me to get the shot. They’ve been sending me letters, emailing, texting, and yesterday, they even robo-called me.  

First, there was a very nice letter in the mail – plain old USPS – from my health insurance provider, telling me they were going to help me make an appointment. Then my doctor’s practice let me know, both by letter and by a note left in my “health portal” what I should do to secure an appointment. And then all the hospitals that have ever seen me for any reason in the past, got in touch to say they were waiting for my call. My preferred pharmacy (as dictated by my insurance company) has been emailing me regularly – texting to my phone, too – to make sure I know that I’m eligible for vaccine, which they will be offering at their retail stores, any day now. I’ve had so many of these invitations to call a number, leave my information, and they will have someone call me back with an appointment time and place.

Yesterday’s robocall was the weirdest yet: My landline rang, the caller ID said Johns Hopkins Medical, and when I picked up, I heard a mechanical voice that offered me a vaccination. “Press 1 if you would like to book an appointment. Press 2 if you have already been vaccinated or do not wish to be vaccinated."

I just wish they had separated “press 2” into two different categories, just so I could let them know they had reached an already vaccinated person -- not someone who was declining their kind offer!

Or wait, here's an even better option! I want my next robo-call to give me a third choice: “Press 3, if you have already been vaccinated, and you would like us to stop calling you and redirect our outreach efforts to get to all the people who 1) don’t have a regular doctor; 2) don’t have health insurance; 3) don’t have a landline; 4) don’t have text-messaging on their cell phone either; or 5) are not signed up to any listservs, alert systems, or other internet communications.

Now THAT would be a useful voicemail option!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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