‘It’s kind of nuts’: Hours of waiting, inaccurate information about COVID-19 vaccines in Santa Clara County
Health care workers wait and pace in the hallway to be among the first receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. (San José Spotlight / Vicente Vera, Pool)

A day after local health officials expanded COVID-19 vaccine access to elderly people, Santa Clara County residents faced hours of delays, long waits and inaccurate information about getting vaccinated.

It took three separate phone calls and more than five hours of waiting for Alyssa Galvan to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination for her 66-year-old dad.

“I was kind of shaky toward the end of that phone call because I was like, ‘oh my God, I can’t believe it actually happened,'” Galvan said.

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Jan. 13 that COVID-19 vaccines are now available to people 65 years or older, the county is only vaccinating people 75 or older due to a vaccine shortage. Some private health care providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, receive their vaccines directly from the state and can vaccinate those 65 and up.

Galvan said scheduling an appointment through Kaiser was exhausting and confusing.

The phone number on Kaiser’s website was incorrect and she waited 1.5 hours to speak with the wrong department. She called the right number the next day, but was told Kaiser isn’t offering vaccines to seniors.

Another two hours on the phone Thursday afternoon and she landed an appointment for her dad at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara on Jan. 24.

“I would like consistent messaging,” Galvan said. “I started calling yesterday to try to schedule my dad an appointment because I saw that a politician had posted that I would be able to do that, but it’s clear that I wasn’t able to do that yesterday because I called Kaiser and they gave me the run-around like crazy.”

Galvan, a San Jose resident, said she wants to quickly vaccinate her dad after he was nearly exposed to COVID-19 from her sister.

Galvan added that available appointments from Kaiser were booking up in minutes.

“I was trying to book (an appointment) and the guy was like, ‘Oh wait a minute, that slot was just taken. Now I have 11:30, does that work?'” Galvan said. “It’s kind of nuts.”

A Kaiser Permanente spokesperson said the organization expected a flood of calls and is creating online tools for people to schedule vaccination appointments on their own.

The spokesperson said the hospitals are following the state’s guidelines for who to vaccinate.

People who qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine or have family who qualifies under Kaiser can call 866-454-8855 to schedule an appointment.

Meanwhile, another Bay Area provider posted inaccurate information about who can receive a vaccine on its website.

Stanford Health Care’s website said it’s only vaccinating its own workers and certain community health care workers for most of the day Thursday.

But county health officials said providers receiving vaccine doses from the county – such as Stanford – should offer it people who are 75 or older. A county spokesperson said Stanford’s website should reflect the county’s current vaccination order.

Stanford Health Care webpage for vaccines says it is not offering the vaccine to anyone beyond Phase 1A, which only includes health care workers. This contradicts Santa Clara County’s most recent order that seniors can start getting vaccinated.

“They’re providing false information to the public,” said Palo Alto resident Sheila Hesting, who was helping a neighbor enroll for a COVID-19 vaccine at Stanford. “I know I’m being nitpicky, but seriously, it doesn’t take long to update a webpage.”

Seven hours after an inquiry from San José Spotlight, a Stanford spokesperson said the website had been updated to show current vaccine guidelines. Stanford patients 75 or older, however, will have to wait until Friday to schedule a vaccination, the spokesperson said.

Despite delays facing patients with private health care providers, the county’s scheduling system for its public hospitals and mass vaccination sites appeared to be working effectively for some.

Los Gatos resident Zag Kadah said he scheduled an appointment at the vaccination clinic at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds within minutes.

Kadah, 85, said he received an email that said he was eligible for a vaccine and scheduled an appointment for next week.

“(They said) to do this, go to this site,” he said. “And I did. It was very simple.”

But others faced glitches that made signing up take several hours.

San Jose resident Rajiv Sinha attempted to schedule a vaccine appointment for his 92-year-old mom and encountered glitches each time he tried to select a time on calvax.org.

Sinha eventually gave up on using the web, and scheduled the vaccination with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center over the phone, which took another hour of his time.

“It’s a few hours wasted, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s not a huge, huge deal,” Sinha said. “You start multiplying that and (it’s) affecting lots of people. We think very highly of Santa Clara County and the state of California. We’d like to imagine that things work better here.”

For more information on how to get a vaccine, who is eligible and how to schedule an appointment in Santa Clara County, visit sccfreevax.org.

Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

 

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