Scoring an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccination has become a little easier due to tweaks to the state registration sites, but it remains a time-consuming and frustrating task. And for those not using a computer, it’s virtually impossible.
But help is on the way.
Local public safety and health depts., as well as councils on aging, have put together lists of those who are homebound or lack transportation. The focus is on residents age 65 and older and individuals with two or more medical conditions that qualify under state guidelines. Those lists are being turned over to organizations who can get this at-risk population vaccinated.
The three clinics run by Outer Cape Health Services (OCHS) should be vaccinating those who are homebound from the second half of March through April, according to spokesman Gerry Desautels, who said that OCHS’s service area stretches from Yarmouth to Provincetown. The organization is using registration forms provided by the towns for each person requesting vaccination.
“We are looking at approximately 700 identified homebound individuals and 350 to 400 vaccines for low-income, subsidized senior housing with transportation challenges across our towns,” said Desautels in an email.
Eastham Health Director Jane Crowley said the towns have been busy. “We’re doing all we can to provide assistance,” she said.
Chris Hottle, director of the Provincetown Council on Aging, said her COA had about 20 names of homebound residents, but other departments were working on getting their own lists to OCHS.
Hottle said Outer Cape residents have been lucky to have OCHS. “They really stepped in,” she said. “There’s a level of trust there.”
In a letter to the Independent, Provincetown Housing Authority Director Kristin Hatch also praised OCHS for its success in getting the elderly and disabled residents at the town’s Maushope facility vaccinated.
“We are overwhelmed by how smoothly the process went,” Hatch wrote.
Both Crowley and Hottle said the bulk of the calls for help have been from those having difficulty securing appointments. “The online registration program has had all kinds of issues, and it’s very frustrating,” Crowley said. “We’re working with Outer Cape Health Services, Harbor Community Health Center, and Cape Cod Healthcare to reach out and help those people.”
OCHS patients who have their own transportation can contact their doctors and schedule vaccinations at OCHS clinics in Provincetown, Wellfleet, and Harwich Port.
“We are ordering weekly and vaccinating weekly at each health center while maintaining our regular health center operations,” Desautels said.
Even those who are not patients can go onto the OCHS website and fill out a registration form, which can be dropped off or faxed. They will then be contacted.
Vaccines in Short Supply
One of the greatest challenges has been the inadequate supply of vaccines provided to the Cape.
“As long as the governor continues to open up eligibility for more groups without having enough doses to support the previous rounds of eligibility, accessing appointments will continue to be difficult,” said Provincetown Health Director Morgan Clark. She advised signing up for alerts on provincetown-ma.gov and calling one’s primary care physician.
But conditions are improving due to the recent establishment of the Cape Cod Regional Vaccine Consortium.
The consortium, which includes Cape Cod Healthcare, Barnstable County, the Cape Cod legislative delegation, town health officials, and community health centers, is behind the large-scale vaccination site set up at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable.
The state has upped the amount of vaccine provided to the county, which is expected to be 1,170 weekly doses of Pfizer vaccine, according to Barnstable County spokesperson Sonja Sheasley.
Two clinics were scheduled to administer 1,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, Sheasley said in an email. Since J&J is a single-shot vaccine, those who received it are fully inoculated.
“According to the state, we likely won’t receive J&J again until early to mid-April,” Sheasley said. “But, as always, this is subject to change.”
The county has been busy. To date, it has run 39 clinics and administered a total of 11,059 first and second doses.
Cape Cod Hospital has also begun receiving vaccines weekly. Currently, Cape Cod Healthcare (which operates the hospital) is contacting eligible high-risk residents by phone to book vaccinations. They include those who are not Cape Cod Healthcare patients, according to information provided by spokeswoman Christina Peaslee.
Cape Cod Healthcare is also working with Barnstable County to request access to the PrepMod scheduling system so it can make appointments available to the public.
Educators Added to the Mix
Starting today, March 11, the state’s 400,000 K-12 educators and staff and child-care workers will also be vying for appointments.
Teachers’ and firefighters’ unions have been pushing to allow local EMTs to administer the vaccine to educators at their schools.
“We have vaccines available, and we have a comprehensive plan that will work,” said Cheri Armstrong, a teacher at Monomoy Regional Middle School and chair of the Cape and Islands Area Mass. Educator Action Network. “We are just sorry all these proposals are still just sitting on Gov. Baker’s desk.”
Educators were allowed to book appointments at CVS prior to today, since the pharmacy operates under federal contracts. “Some of my colleagues have gone online as early as 5 a.m. on the CVS site,” Armstrong said. “Some have been successful, and some have not.”
For those looking for help in navigating the state’s registration system, Barnstable County has set up a 10-minute video tutorial at bit.ly/BCPrepMod_Demo. Advice includes logging on at least 30 minutes before opening time; not refreshing the browser; not setting up filters by checking off boxes such as “seniors” or “adults”; and, once into the system, simply scrolling down through dates and locations to find the clinic you’re looking for.