By Leezel Tanglao
Tayo Project Director
January 22, 2021
If you see a spot, don’t wait - just grab it.
That’s the mindset you have to have if you want to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner rather than later when your priority phase is ready for distribution if you live in Los Angeles County.
When Los Angeles County opened up more of their Point of Distribution (POD)s for mass vaccinations, I immediately logged on to the LA County Public Health site to grab an appointment for my mom and aunts who are in that key demographic vulnerable demographic - 65 and over.
They are all over the age of 80, which made it even more imperative that they get vaccinated.
On the first day the site went live, I could not get any appointments. The site kept crashing or all the possible appointments were completely full within minutes.
I didn’t care if it meant driving as far as all the way to Magic Mountain in Valencia if it meant that my mom and aunts could get vaccinated sooner than later.
Originally, I had hoped they would get it directly from their primary care provider but even they didn’t know when they would get their supply.
So I decided to try my luck in getting it through LA County even if it meant driving an hour away.
My family and I live in the South Bay, specifically in the City of Carson. Add in traffic, it can take at least an hour to get anywhere that’s not in the immediate South Bay or Long Beach area.
With no luck on Tuesday, I tried again on Wednesday. Waking up early, I was able to make appointments for my mom, my auntie Mila and auntie Nonelon for Thursday, Jan. 21, at Dodgers Stadium at 6:50pm PT - the last slot of the day.
The other slots went so fast each time I refreshed the page, that I changed tactics and went straight to the last slot of the day to ensure we got something.
In going through this process, it revealed the accessibility issues in booking an appointment for someone who is not tech savvy.
If I was not at home, I don’t think my mom or aunt would have been able to get their vaccines on their own. The county provides a phone number you can call but still, my family is not the most tech savvy users and would have rather wait for their doctors or for me to come home if I was still in New York and book their appointments.
Aside from the booking issues, there was the challenge of getting to the vaccination site. Again, they would have rather had someone drive them that they know versus a stranger like an Uber driver.
In the next coming weeks, I hope officials improve the process so that those in the most vulnerable groups like my family, can get vaccinated in a timely manner.
Once we got to Dodgers Stadium, the process was fairly straightforward and simple. Following the signs to where the site was set up leads you to a few stations where they ask you how many people are getting vaccinated. I told them 3 people and they marked my car with no. 3.
The Dodgers Stadium site is a drive thru only site so you could only stay in your car. After telling them how many people were getting the vaccine, officials direct you to a traffic cone maze that winded around the stadium parking lot.
In many ways, it was good we had the last appointment of the day. With the summer like temperatures Southern California has been experiencing, it would not have been fun sitting in the car for that long.
After following cars to the designated vaccination stations, now the wait started. We did not get to the vaccination station until a little after 7 p.m.
Luckily, in planning ahead, I had a full tank of gas and my mom and aunts brought snacks to pass the time. It would not be until about an hour later where officials were able to procure more vaccines.
They approached my car and in less than 5 minutes, my 81-year-old mom, 88-year-old aunt Nonelon and 91-year-old aunt Mila received their first Moderna dose just after 8 p.m.
Officials had us wait for a bit before leaving to go home to see if anyone had an adverse reaction. By 8:25 p.m. we were on our way back home to the South Bay.
If you plan on trying one of these sites, particularly Dodgers Stadium, make sure you have all your required paperwork (ID, proof of residency), a full tank of gas, pack some snacks and a whole lot of patience. You’ll have to do it all again in about a month (depending on which vaccine you get).
Message for Fellow Kababayans
My mom isn’t shy telling her fellow kababayans (cabalens if you’re kapampangans) to get the vaccine.
“Don't be scared,” she says. “It's scarier if you don't get injected because no one will get close to you because you actually might be a carrier of the virus.”
While there’s a long way to go until we get through this pandemic. It’s worth noting that getting the vaccine is not an automatic ticket to stop practicing COVID-19 safety measures.
We all still have to wear our masks, wash our hands and practice social distancing. But it’s the first step toward battling this invisibility enemy that's taken so much from us.
Leezel Tanglao is Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) Vice President, COVID-19 Task Force Chair and Project Director of the Caretaker Project's Tayo help desk.