The governor of Colorado announced on Jan. 30 the start of Colorado’s phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, which included me, a doctor who takes care of patients, in addition to my role as an NBC News contributor. That began my journey to find a vaccine.
I scoured the websites of the Colorado Department of Health and of my counties, as well as the websites of all the major health systems in the state, only to find limited information about how to get the vaccine. At the same time, I talked with the public relations directors at three of the major health systems about doing a Facebook Live while getting the vaccine, with the understanding that I would do this once my number was called and that I would not in any way “jump" the line. And I waited and waited and waited.
Then in late January, as I was talking to the public relations director for National Jewish Health in Denver about another story, I mentioned to him that I was looking for the vaccine and he directed me to their website.
A few days later, he called me and said that for some reason they had around 50 shots left over that day they needed to administer so they wouldn’t go to waste. They went up and down the hallways of their hospital and were able to get enough patients to give most of the shots, but had one left over and I could have it if I made it there by 6 p.m. (I live an hour away.)
I pulled my wife off of her treadmill workout (still owe her for that) to go with me to film and headed to National Jewish Health.
After filling out the paperwork and talking to the public relations director and nurse about the filming, I got ready to get my vaccine. Literally, as I was rolling up my sleeve, the person whose shot I was getting showed up, having missed their earlier appointment. Of course I deferred to them and they got the vaccine, I did not.
But the director let me know that on the following week they were having their first mass vaccination event for people ages 70+, and were sure they’d have at least one dose left over. Later that day, I followed up and they said they had a vaccine available for me. I drove to National Jewish Health, again with my wife along for filming, and saw the throngs of people waiting to get their shot.
We decided to wait until the event was over just in case someone showed up late. By 2 p.m. all had gotten their vaccine and National Jewish Health had eight shots left over. They found seven other people who needed them and gave me the last one which we filmed for Facebook Live.
Getting my second shot was as easy as it gets. National Jewish Health emailed me multiple times since my first vaccine with reminders of my appointment to get the second dose. Paperwork was filled out before leaving my house and once at the hospital, I lined up ready to wait. After talking to the staff to confirm my appointment and they checked my paperwork, including the now famous COVID-19 vaccine card to document my second dose and checking my temperature, I got my shot.
Total wait time to get the shot would have been about five minutes max, but it took me much longer to set up my equipment for the Facebook Live. National Jewish Health has certainly smoothed out the process and are now able to give many shots per day.
Had I not popped up on their informal waiting list I doubt I would have gotten the vaccine for another few weeks, if then, and it took considerable effort on my part to find and acquire the vaccine.
Your best bet is to go to every list available to you, be it your state and/or county health department, local health systems and even your nearby pharmacies to sign up for the first available appointment, once you are eligible for the vaccine. And be ready to get there at a moment's notice if the call comes that there is a shot waiting for you.