'Don't want them to die': Concern for Bay Area seniors who still can't get appointments for COVID-19 vaccine

Many Bay Area seniors are struggling to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines, while others are finding quick success. A Bay Area health officer explains what one of the problems could be.
BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- On Thursday, many Bay Area seniors struggled to sign up for coronavirus vaccines, while others found quick success.

"We felt so lucky, last night we received an email from our wonderful doctor," said Jan Buckley. Jan and her husband Jim, who are 75 and 80, received an email from their Sutter internist, who told them to sign up for a vaccine appointment through their my health online chart. And by Thursday morning, they were getting vaccinated at a Sutter clinic in Berkeley.

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"We made our appointments last night, and we went over this morning, about 45 minutes early and there were only three people in line," said Jan. "It was just effortless, it was wonderful."

But the Buckley's experience is far from universal. Sutter's online portal and vaccine phone line was jammed up with high traffic, as was Kaiser's.

"My father has been calling today to try and get an appointment to get vaccinated and he's been on hold for two hours and still hasn't spoken to anyone," said Santa Rosa resident, Carole LaRochelle, who spent the day trying to help her 90-year-old father get a vaccine appointment with Kaiser, to no avail. "I'm pretty worried."

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Websites down, phone lines at capacity and many elders stuck with little information about how to proceed in getting their COVID-19 vaccine - That's the frustrating reality thousands are dealing with.

Carole says her 88-year-old mother, who's in assisted living in Sonoma County, is also still waiting for her vaccine.

"I really want my parents to get vaccinated. I don't want them to die from COVID," she said.

"We have almost no vaccines left at the end of each week. The more we get, the more we'll give," said Marin County Health Officer, Dr. Matt Willis.

Willis says Marin County only gets 5,000 doses of vaccine a week, which means the county doesn't have enough supply to start vaccinating age-based patients until the middle of next week.

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Willis says this is why Sutter may have given the Buckley's, who live in Sausalito, the vaccine in Alameda County.

"One of the complicating factors is that people who are part of multi-county health care systems, like Kaiser or Sutter, have access to hospitals and health care practices outside of their counties, and that's what's happening."

"If there's another county where they're able to offer that vaccine, and there's no other barriers to it, I can see why people would cross county borders. My hope would be that there'll be a more uniform approach across the state, so there weren't these disparities between counties," said Willis.

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