Governor Hutchinson announced yesterday that he’d get his first COVID-19 vaccination at 3 p.m. Monday at the state Health Department.

Lucky him. He’d previously announced that he’d get a shot when his group became eligible. He turned 70 last month so he becomes eligible Monday under current state rules.

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Gee, I wondered, how long did he have to stay on the phone or refresh an Internet page until he could get through to somebody with the vaccine to get an appointment?

I’m 70 so Monday is when I become eligible. I won’t be getting a shot at 3 p.m. Monday. I’ve been striking out on my pharmacy inquiries.

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If I was an elected official in the Jonesboro area, I could have already gone over to St. Bernards Healthcare already and gotten a shot. There was no rule to allow this (and they’ll face no consequences for favoritism), but, hey, they had some doses and, well, elected officials are essential, right? St. Bernards also opened up early for people 70 and over and a local Catholic school, as well as public school employees, both groups in theory not eligible until Monday. On these exceptions, they got an OK from the Health Department.

Other health centers with surplus doses have reportedly allowed some walk-in business in recent days, no priority conditions required, at least until word got around. In one case I was told about, the grapevine produced a land office rush and they then shut down the operation.

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I heard last night from an aggrieved 65-year-old with serious medical conditions who’s probably months away from being eligible to get a shot under current rules. He wasn’t happy to read on the Facebook page of the employee of a major university that she and all university employees, whether teachers or in contact with students or not, would be getting a shot next week.

UAMS opened its phone lines Friday to make appointments for shots at its new clinic next week and they were swamped with calls. It said Friday evening:

Due to the high volume of phone calls to the UAMS COVID vaccine scheduling phone line, UAMS phone service was interrupted for a brief time this afternoon. Our IT team worked with our phone company to limit the number of calls to the scheduling line.

 

There are 20 operators working with callers to schedule appointments. Callers who are not able to reach an operator will be sent to voicemail to leave detailed contact information or will hear a busy signal and will need to call back. UAMS schedulers will contact callers who leave messages over the next several days.

I had a friend who got through after 50 minutes on hold, one of about 1,000 who scored appointments among more than 4,400 calls.

The private pharmacies that are offering shots are experiencing the same crush. As yet, I haven’t been able to find one where I can schedule a shot. Many have closed their waiting lists for the time being. I think I’m on a list but have not received the website’s promised confirmation.

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I suspect rule exceptions such as at St. Bernards (and the reported early help a pharmacy provided the Batesville school district) are happening across Arkansas. Some are understandable. UAMS, with excess supply and the ability to use it, opened up its shots to employees who aren’t in health care or patient care roles. They do enter premises with higher risk, it seems to me. And you don’t want the vaccine to expire because all eligible health workers and first responders haven’t stepped up to take the shots.

I’ll say again: The state of Arkansas isn’t doing enough to get shots into arms. See the mass clinics in Texas. If we can send the National Guard to Washington we could put some to work at a mass clinic. See the Oklahoma website with a system to sign up for mobile notification of vaccination slots as they become available.

Yes, supply is a problem, but according to the most recent report, Arkansas had managed to use only about 40 percent of the vaccine it had received, so it’s not like the state has run out. The Trump administration has bungled vaccine delivery just as it bungled COVID-19 response. Leaving it to the states has not been a bright idea, as the Arkansas experience proves.

Joe Biden promises to change things.

Us 70-year-olds hope so.