March 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Maddening experiences of older Angelenos who want a vaccine

What do we have in Southern California — mass vaccination or vaccination theater?

I ask because on Wednesday, as Times readers who identified themselves as older than 65 or otherwise vulnerable to COVID-19 continued to send us letters describing their fear and frustration over the botched vaccine rollout, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti retweeted a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Dodger Stadium parking lot being jabbed in his famously swole upper arm with a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Included in the mayor’s tweet were instructions for healthcare workers and Los Angeles County residents over 65 to make vaccine appointments — the very instructions that readers have tried to follow and found unhelpful.

And “unhelpful” is putting it mildly. Over the last three weeks, we have received dozens of letters from readers who describe themselves as seniors or as having a preexisting condition — cancer, diabetes, heart disease, you name it — saying they have exhausted all options for appointments or, when they were lucky enough to obtain one, followed every instruction to the letter, showed up at the designated time and place, only to be informed that there were no more shots for them but better luck next time.

But Arnold got his shot, and as the mayor assured us, “He’ll be back — for his second dose.” But you, you’ll have to wait for your first.

If that were the end of it, if patience were all that was needed, that would probably suffice for many of our older readers. But they also describe their feelings watching a process that seems unguided by fairness and absent any assurance that their day will come or, if it does come, that someone will tell them about it. They write of wanting to hold the hands of dying relatives, hoping to see their 90th or even 100th birthday, or merely exist without the fear that the impatience and impudence of others will not kill them.

Of course, a handful of letter writers have described their positive experiences getting vaccinated — curiously, most live in Pasadena or Long Beach, the two L.A. County cities with their own health departments — but they are outliers, and it pains me to write that. What’s on this page today is a representation of the fear and feeling of abandonment expressed by readers as they watch the opening of mass vaccination centers that aren’t for them and listen to elected leaders express hope that isn’t nearly as contagious as the coronavirus.

(Full disclosure: I am a participant in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial, and as such I am receiving nominal payments from the company.)

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To the editor: I was so excited when I was old enough to vote for the very first time, which I did for Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now at 97 years old, I am excited that Joe Biden has become our president.

I am a Los Angeles native and want to eventually celebrate my 100th birthday, but have been unable to register to get the injections to keep me well until then.

They are taking people younger than I am. Why not me?

Ruth Banarer, Northridge

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To the editor: Thanks to Supervisor Hilda Solis for ordering the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to allow residents over 65 to make appointments to get the vaccine.

However, I and many of my friends spent hours one recent night trying to make appointments with no success. The county website for doing so is terrible. One must choose a site and day, then fill out multiple screens’ worth of personal information only to end up on a screen that says there are no available appointments.

Then, one must go back and start over. The phone number for help disconnects after a message. This is so frustrating.

Also, at the town hall I recently attended, we were told to be patient and to keep checking back. It would be nice to know when the county plans to release new appointment slots instead of making us continually check back.

My mother-in-law’s health is failing, and I would dearly like to be able to get on a plane to hold her hand before she dies.

Jennifer Mawhorter, Claremont

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To the editor: I live in Orange County. I am 72 years old with hypertension. My wife is 71 and suffers from Type 1 diabetes, among other preexisting conditions. We have “registered” with Hoag, UCI Health, Othena and MemorialCare.

I have not seen any instructions on how to make an appointment. We go to these sites many times each day without a clue as to what is expected of us. Will we get an email telling us we can now make an appointment, or will we have to search those sites every hour to see when a slot opens up?

People over 65 account for three-quarters of the COVID-19 deaths in Orange County, even though confirmed positive cases are lower than any other age group, including children.

If you have too many priorities, you really have no priorities. As Ronald Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Frank Deni, Lake Forest

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To the editor: I’d like to respond to the negative articles concerning vaccination appointments and dispensations.

I was given an appointment and a confirmation via email. They occurred without a hitch. In fact, I was impressed with the efficiency, smoothness and friendliness of the whole process.

I didn’t have to get out of the car, was greeted with a smile, received the shot, was asked to wait 15 minutes to be sure there was no allergic reaction and was then sent on my way. A doctor’s appointment could not have been smoother.

Rhya Turovsky, Pasadena

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To the editor: The federal government and the state of California have both recommended vaccinating people over the age of 65. The county of Ventura, on its vaccination website, allows individuals in this age group to sign up for appointments.

My wife and I signed up and arrived at the vaccination site on time. Once there, we parked as directed and waited for a numbered parking spot to become available. The process seemed very unorganized.

We were finally assigned a numbered parking space; once there, we were told that we would not be vaccinated, unless we could present proof that we were healthcare workers. We were told that our appointment was not really an appointment.

This whole vaccination rollout has been plagued by mixed messaging and confusion. It seems logical that California would urgently try to vaccinate as many people as possible — as many as the vaccine supply will allow — especially with cases spiking throughout the state.

Yet bureaucracy has triumphed again, pushing aside the health and safety of California residents.

Gaylaird Christopher, Oxnard

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To the editor: My brother-in-law lives in England. In early December, a few days after British authorities approved the Pfizer vaccine, he was called by the National Health Service telling him he had an appointment later that week at his local hospital to receive his first dose.

The shot was given with no waiting time, after which he was taken to a recovery room for 15 minutes where he was offered a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea. The same procedure was followed for his second dose.

This is socialized medicine in action — a far cry from the chaotic shambles here.

Richard Pollard, Santa Monica

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To the editor: My county has forsaken seniors.

Despite the published fact that 79% of COVID-19 deaths are among people over 65, few vaccinations are available.

Seniors elsewhere in the United States have received the vaccinations, while those in L.A. County are being told there are not enough doses for us. These are your parents, grandparents and those others who have no voice to protect them.

Shame on our supervisors.

Dolores Kelemen, Santa Monica

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To the editor: I am 89 years old and live alone. I am willing, indeed eager to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but as we are repeatedly told in news broadcasts, an appointment is needed.

Unfortunately and irritatingly, we don’t hear how to make an appointment; it seems as if no one really knows. I have checked with my doctor’s office and was told that they have no information whatsoever but that they are keeping a list of inquiries and will let me know when they are informed.

I get my flu shots and fill prescriptions at a local Ralphs pharmacy and recently heard that it was making appointments for February, but when I checked at the one I use and another nearby, I was told that the list was full and it was not making any more appointments.

As far as I can tell, I could die before L.A. County gets its act together and lets us know how to make the appointment we are repeatedly told is essential.

Patricia M. Wolfe, Laurel Canyon

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To the editor: I am a 66-year-old retired man who has basically complied with the stay-home order and other health recommendations for the past 10 months. I am not interested in jumping the line and am confident that my group is weeks away from joining those whose members are entitled to be vaccinated.

That said, it is frustrating and sad to hear that vaccine doses are being thrown away because more doses were unfrozen than people showed up to get the shot. This should not happen under any circumstances.

I am calling on our government leaders and healthcare experts to create some type of waiting-list system so that vaccine doses are not thrown away. It should involve people on the list being called and given, for example, one hour to get to a pharmacy or other vaccination location to be given the shot.

Call me. I’ll be there. Don’t throw away a dose that could be used on me or many others who would be happy to be called on short notice to be vaccinated.

Gary Yates, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I think most of us just want the administering of the vaccine to be fair.

We can wait our turn, but is it fair that if you are 65 years or older, you are able to get the vaccine in certain counties in California but not in others? Is it fair that those more skilled at using a computer can secure an appointment before the rest of us?

To senior citizens, this sounds like “survival of the fittest.”

Karen Berrenson, Woodland Hills

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To the editor: It is time that vaccine deployment is the No. 1 issue addressed publicly daily until we start rolling out more substantial numbers of vaccines. We hear nothing on goals, progress, issues and resolutions to problems.

My mother-in-law is 85, can’t travel across the county and has no luck in getting an appointment.

It is time for elected officials in Orange County, where I live, to be accountable now. The Othena system appears bungled and it needs to be fixed immediately.

Step up, please.

Bill Spear, Fountain Valley

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To the editor: On Dec. 1, 1969, the Selective Service conducted a lottery to determine the order of drafting for the military based on birth dates. Do the same for vaccines and save millions of people hours searching the internet in vain.

Richard Richter, Irvine