In Search of the Elusive COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
Rite Aid on Fair Oaks Avenue is one of the handful of locations in South Pasadena where eligible residents can try to get their vaccines for COVID-19.

Pull up a chair and let me tell you a tale of grit and determination.
A tale of frustration and going down more rabbit holes than that bunny in “Alice In Wonderland.”
A tale about my getting a COVID-19 shot.
People no longer say hello. They say: “Do you know any place where I can get a COVID shot?” Or they ask: “Did you get Pfizer or Moderna?”
For the record, I got my shot in Downey and the brand was Pfizer.
But oh, my quest sometimes left me feeling as beaten as Don Quixote must have felt after tilting with those windmills.

Vaccinations are currently being given in Los Angeles County to public health care workers, long term care residents and people 65 years and older. I was all set to have my shot at the Southern California Medical Center in El Monte late last month. They called the afternoon before I was to go and told me that they had run out of vaccine, but that I was on a priority list.
Two weeks later, I got an auto call from the same site and was told to report the next day at 4:30 p.m. I called — just to make sure — and was told, “Oh, that was a mistake.”
The pièce de résistance was when I made an appointment at the drive-thru site in Downey and had an email that listed the times for my first and second shot. I got there and was told: “We don’t have you in the system. Follow that jitney and we’ll get it straightened out.”
The only thing they straightened out was when they told me to leave — immediately.
I got home to a message from the nurse who directs operations. She apologized and asked if I could turn around and come right back. I told her that I had rheumatoid arthritis and there was no chance that was happening.
To her credit, not only did she apologize, but she sent me a confirming email and her cellphone number if I had a problem. The second time around, I had a great experience and everyone could not have been more pleasant.
I’m not the only one having these kinds of problems.
The rheumatologist who was my physician before he retired was trying to get his wife a shot and she, too, was stymied by a lack of vaccine at the South California Medical Center. He went once on a tip from a friend to Dodger Stadium, only to find out they were out of vaccines — hours before the site was to close.
He and his friends traded tips on possible sites and websites. Some had vaccine supply for a few days and then were out for a while. Some were dead ends.
If you are looking for website help, here are a few to try:
Huntington Hospital is offering a limited service in connection with the Pasadena Department of Public Health for Pasadena residents. You should continue to look at the hospital’s website at Do not call the hospital to schedule appointments.
Keck Hospital has promoted it has a limited amount of vaccine available, but the last time I saw one of those announcements, limited became nonexistent in a very short time.
Inspired by the volunteer-run VaccinateCA site, a software engineer developed a website that computes availability from the three main New York City and state vaccine systems and sends the information in real time to Twitter.
A clerk at the Rite-Aid on Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena said that several of the people who came in for their shots admitted they were frustrated while trying to navigate the various websites.
Gerontologist Alexandria Levitt, who is on the board of the South Pasadena Senior Foundation, said that getting vaccinated is a “big challenge” for the elderly.
“I don’t think it’s a great idea for them to be in big long lines at these massive sites and I don’t know how most of them would even sign up for that,” she said. “I think most of our vulnerable South Pas residents don’t even use the internet.
“I don’t know what they are doing,” Levitt added, “but doing it from a car sounds great.”
Getting the cars to pick up stranded housebound seniors is also a problem, Levitt said. And many seniors don’t want to get in cars with people they don’t know.
There didn’t appear to be lines at Rite Aid on Fair Oaks when I visited two days in a row. Everyone had an appointment time, and the clerk in the pharmacy said that things were running smoothly.
I checked one website and there were also vaccines available for people 65 years old and up at the Pavilions Pharmacy, also on Fair Oaks; the Ralphs Grocery Store on Garfield Street; and the Rite-Aid at 6305 York Blvd. in L.A., a relatively short distance away.
All that is great news for people who have had to wander farther than they might have wanted to get a shot, or to find some availability. I drove to Downey, which is not exactly around the block for me.
Once is not enough — remember that — when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination.
People who receive the Pfizer vaccine should get their second shot 21 days after the first one. People taking the Moderna shot should get their second shot after 28 days. Look at the L.A. Public Health website for guidance on where to go for the second shots. Many places are giving dates for second shots, or saying to come to the same place if you are using a larger facility.
The best news is that more vaccination locations are opening and hopefully your adventure in vaccine land won’t be as crazed as mine.
“All I know is that people are coming in and going out with great big smiles on their faces,” a clerk, who asked to remain anonymous, said of the people who were coming in for their shots.
With more vaccine on the way and more places to get a shot, there should be a lot more smiles coming in the future.
So, grumble if you have to — I did. But like me, your time will come.

Helpful HInts

Here are some thoughts from the Los Angeles County Department of Health on what to do after you receive your vaccination.
Common Side Effects
• You might feel effects in the first two days after getting the vaccine, including a sore or red arm; fever; chills and muscle aches; headache and feeling tired.
• Vaccine side effects are more common after the second dose. They usually do not last long and you should feel better in a day or two.
• Unless a doctor tells you otherwise, it’s important to get the second dose even if you have side effects after the first dose.
Tips to Help With Symptoms
• Apply a clean, cool wet washcloth to reduce pain and discomfort in your arm. It might also help to use or exercise your arm. To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids.
• Over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol of ibuprofen can help with pain, fever, headache or discomfort. Do not take these medicines before getting the vaccination.
Continue to Protect Yourself
• It’s important to continue wearing a face covering, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Stay at least six feet from others. Continue to wash your hands often.
For further guidance or to check for any changes to guidelines, visit the Centers for Disease Control website: