Frustration for some as COVID-19 vaccination appointments become tough to come by


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Hundreds of people in Kern County have now been inoculated with one of the two available COVID-19 vaccines, but thousands more have not because the rollout has been so much slower than expected. What’s the holdup?

Pharmaceutical companies have developed vaccines with incredible speed, and the distribution networks that have been established to get those vaccines out have been nothing short of miraculous. The hard part has been getting those vaccines into people’s arms. That has been a source of some frustration.

Take Linda Wright, who lives in Rexland Acres, where she cares for three grandchildren. Two of them, she says, are at a heightened risk of complications should they catch the virus. One has asthma, one has down syndrome.

Wright herself is 70, a risk factor unto itself.

To protect them all, she says, she needs to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

She has tried multiple times to make an appointment for herself from four local providers, including Priority Urgent Care and Omni Family Health — but as of Tuesday morning Wright was still waiting for the promised call back.

“I’m 70 years old and I’ve been trying for days to get the vaccine,” she said.

She did get through to a live person at one clinic.

“And I was 64 in line,” Wright said. “They said, ‘would you give us your number and we’ll return your call. And so I did — and that was five days ago.”

The problem — the California Department of Public Health has distributed vaccines to Kern County Public Health but also directly to local clinics and pharmacies. How many? Nobody seems to know. The state manages that data — and it took the numbers off of the state public health website.

Chaotic, is how County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson put it.

Dr. Grace Tidwell, associate medical director of Omni Family Health, says the seven days since the vaccine’s rollout have been a scramble for everyone. And California will eventually need 80 million doses of the vaccine.

“It’s a huge number and we are only getting about a half a million a month — we hope,” she said. “That’s what we’re being told. I mean, just do the math.”

Priority Urgent Care held a vaccine clinic at its Mount Vernon location, where a steady stream of people — with appointments — were inoculated.

Yolanda Nunez, waiting her turn with her husband Victor, said they were satisfied the vaccine would be safe and effective.

“I’m getting the vaccine because I have underlying issues and of course I’m 65,” she said. “Let’s give it a chance and see what happens.”

The clinic expected to give out — free of charge — about 100 doses of the vaccine during the one-day-only event Tuesday.

Jessica Pena, general manager of Priority Urgent Care, said they are proceeding cautiously until they know what to expect in the way of future deliveries of the vaccine.

They may be waiting a while.

Local hospitals and clinics say they’re doing their very best to get vaccinations out and into people’s arms. They’re asking for patience. If the supply of vaccines temporarily runs dry that may be all they’ve got to offer for a while.

A bit of good news — Linda Wright finally got that callback and she now has an appointment.

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