With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully in sight, people are desperate to get vaccinated. Last Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a plan for all Americans to be eligible for vaccination by May 1. However, many in the current priority groups are still struggling to find appointments.
In order to help each other set vaccination appointments, people have created apps, pages and even Facebook groups, with some in Houston, Dallas and Austin having as many as 26,000 members. This has helped people connect and let others know of locations with open slots. Since appointments are still scarce, these Facebook communities are beneficial to those who are looking to get vaccinated.
Yet many people who haven’t become eligible are taking a different approach.
Due to their short shelf life, unused vaccines have to be thrown out if they remain at the end of the day. In order to avoid this waste, leftovers are sometimes distributed to people, no matter their eligibility status, once scheduled appointments conclude. Taking advantage of this, people who are not yet eligible have gathered at vaccination locations, especially pharmacies, that give out unused vaccines at the end of the day -- and anyone who receives their first dose can receive their second, even if they do not meet a state’s current eligibility requirements.
Although these leftover vaccines are uncommon and obtaining them requires hours of waiting that may not get results, some people are so desperate they are willing to go through the struggle of finding leftover doses.
Current eligibility in Texas is somewhat restricted. Texas guidelines recently expanded to include adults over 50, but otherwise, it only includes teachers and adults with chronic diseases in addition to front-line health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities who were eligible during the first phase of the rollout.
Due to these limitations, individuals are struggling to obtain appointments. Waitlists, Facebook groups and looking for leftover vaccine doses are tools to assist with this conundrum, but they are definitely not a solid solution. In order for vaccinations to become available to everyone, there need to be some steps taken.
First, older adults may not know how to sign up for their appointments, as most scheduling is done online. It is difficult enough to obtain appointments for those who have access and know how to use the internet.
Inaccessibility is also a problem when it comes to non-English speakers. Without the ability to communicate with those running some vaccination hubs, it is very difficult for some to obtain appointments. There needs to be a way for older adults and non-English speakers to receive assistance, as these people may not have family members who can look out for them.
Second, before expanding eligibility, those who are currently in priority groups must be taken care of. Those who are currently in the priority groups still need to be given priority when distributing leftover vaccines. Waitlists are a good way to keep track of eligible people who have not been able to get an appointment, and by making sure those who are in the priority groups get first-come-first serve access to waitlists, we can reduce the number of COVID-19-related deaths.
The Biden Administration is determined to have all adults be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. However, there is no point in having people be eligible if they cannot get an appointment to receive their shot.
It’s mid-March, and people who are currently in the priority groups are struggling to get appointments. It is unrealistic to expect that in a month and a half the country will be equipped to provide everyone with vaccinations.
The president is giving Americans false hope by saying all Americans will be eligible to be vaccinated by May 1. But as we have seen so far, eligibility does not mean vaccination.
Stephanie Meckel is an english senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.