Adorned in sky blue KN-95 masks, Melanie Dubin and her husband Gunter Leguy made their way through a Boulder Safeway on Saturday. Each held their COVID-19 vaccine consent forms as they made their way to the pharmacy.
After a year of the pandemic, the Lafayette couple were ready to be among the fortunate to receive vaccines on the first weekend most Coloradans became eligible.
A few days ago a friend texted Dubin a link for open vaccine appointments at that Safeway. Dubin jumped on the opportunity.
She had previously booked appointments for herself and Leguy at a mass vaccination site in Colorado Springs, but this appointment was much closer to their home.
“It seems like it shouldn't be this hard to have to hunt for an appointment,” Dubin said. “All the places that I signed up to be notified, I never got a notification. I had to do it myself and everybody is doing it themselves, replicating the same effort and it's kind of infuriating and also just a signal of some kind of broken infrastructure, but that said millions of people are getting vaccinated, which is fantastic.”
The process has been a frustrating one for many Coloradoans, even those who were eligible earlier due to health conditions. There’s also a lot of confusion about how to even sign up for the vaccine.
“There are still a lot of people who are reluctant or hesitant to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Amy Duckro, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “Or there are people who may think that their chance to get vaccinated is so far off that they have delayed signing up for any wait lists.”
Duckro said she recommends people get on the Kaiser Permanente waitlist, which is open to members and non-members alike.
Colorado has six mass vaccination sites, in addition to mobile vaccine buses, pharmacies and clinics and pop-ups, like an event Sunday in a Costco parking lot meant to serve the largely Latino and Vietnamese communities in the Ruby, Valverde and Athmar neighborhoods of Denver.
Dubin and Leguy checked in for their appointments at the pharmacy near the back of the Safeway. They found a line with a couple of dozen others waiting their turn.
The couple had appointments just 15 minutes apart.
“I was holding my phone up to take a picture of myself, and I barely even noticed that he poked it in,” Dubin said. “It's a little bit sore now, but not much. It feels like my kid ran into me.”
As of April 2, everyone in Colorado age 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine. Just a few days earlier, Colorado received a shipment of 422,000 vaccine doses. That’s many times more than just a few weeks back. And now the state has new one-shot doses from Johnson and Johnson, in addition to those already coming from Pfizer and Moderna. The state is expecting around 400,000 doses a week through April.
Colorado joined a wave of states opening up eligibility to all adults including Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Indiana, South Carolina and Texas, according to The New York Times.
Leguy feels the eligibility expansion should have more of the public feeling thankful.
“In this country, we should feel somewhat lucky to have access to the vaccines. I have friends and family in Europe where the situation is way worse,” Leguy said. “I have a friend that I talked to in Germany yesterday, he said his dad is 79 and was not even in the right phase to get it.”
Leguy asked someone at the front desk how many vaccinations they were doing that day. He was told they would vaccinate 350 people, and that on a day during the week it was between 30 and 50 people.
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The entire process took less than an hour and the couple made their appointments for their second shots before leaving the store to pick up their son and prepare for a busy weekend.
“It was strange. It was kind of anticlimactic after all of the emotions of the past year,” Dubin said. “I did a little like happy dance when I came out of there. I'm super relieved.”