As a guy with “geek” in the name of his newspaper column I’m supposed to be techy-savvy, so it’s embarrassing to admit how confused I got when signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine this week. Perhaps my experience will help those who sign up down the road.
The big problem is that I didn’t realize New Hampshire was using the federal CDC for their follow-up email rather than a site with a return address from the state, which got me all flummoxed.
I am eligible for shots during Phase 1B because of age, having recently entered that life stage when half my mail is Medicare brochures. On the morning of Jan. 22 I, along with tens of thousands of others, signed into vaccines.nh.gov to get my appointment.
First stumbling point is that I typed in vaccine.nh.gov – singular, not plural – which doesn’t exist. The state should have bought that URL and made it a redirect because this was an obvious PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard) blunder. Website designers should always try to anticipate dumb users.
Once at the actual site I worked my way through the various fields, resisting the urging to put “Dr.” as my prefix instead of “Mr.,” and hit “Send.” Then I sat back and awaited the promised follow-up email from the state in three to five days, which would let me schedule the shot.
However, the very next day I got an email from the federal Centers for Disease Control’s VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) saying, “Your organization or employer designated you in a priority group for immunization,” giving me a link to sign up.
I thought it was very nice of the Monitor to make sure that I would get a vaccination but I didn’t want to register with the feds since I had already registered with the state and was awaiting my scheduling email. I ignored it.
It was only early Monday when talking to another Monitor employee in The Prime Of Life that I realized the CDC response was indeed the state’s follow-up email, despite coming from the federal government.
So I went back to the email and followed the link to fill out the form, which rather confusingly is exactly the same as the form we filled out when registering initially. I got confused at a couple of places but my excuse is that it showed up sooner than the state’s explanatory FAQ email.
The FAQ includes lots of great information that would have saved me headaches, from don’t use Internet Explorer as your browser to the weird way you have to input ethnicity/race that I got wrong four times. The state should send this email out as soon as a person registers.
The state also needs to make it clear that the email for scheduling a shot will come from the CDC, not our friends in Concord.
I’m not the only person to stumble over that issue. Seacoast Online reporter Paul Brian wrote about his travails with signing up, which were just like mine.
Despite all this my first vaccine is now scheduled for mid-March. It feels like we’ve reached the beginning of the end of this pandemic, or at least the end of the beginning. It can’t end soon enough for me.
I agree and had the same experience, but muddled through. The sad part is that every one of those small points of confusion almost certainly excluded a certain percentage of folks in need of vaccination, either because they were not sufficiently computer savvy, did not have an up-to-date computer or any number of small reasons. The target group for exclusion: the over 75 age group, exactly the opposite of the intention. Ridiculous.
I, and all of my friends, experienced exactly the same confusion. But what is also still a question, when signing up with N.H., at the very end of the application, was a spot to sign up your spouse. But in the CDC email, there was only a response for me…..so is my husband signed up or not? I called 211 and the gentleman answering the phone was very nice but unsure. Again, no clear instructions of what to do.
This came at the perfect time. Just as my husband (who’d been waiting for a response) opened this morning’s email. Thanks for the head’s up.
I got mail post-signup from “email@example.com” which contained the following in the middle:
3. If you registered a qualifying household member along with yourself (ie. spouse) to receive the vaccine at the same time, additional information will not be asked for or required when you schedule your appointment. Just arrive with your qualifying family member.
So I assume the Mrs. and I are good to go, and I bet you’re fine too.
I agree that the process could have been better designed. On the other hand, they’re savin’ my frickin’ life, so I’m not going to gripe overmuch.
I had the same problems except I did know to open the CDC email. I scheduled my appointment and 16 hours later got a “congratulatory” email canceling my appointment. That meant I lost my good date. I quickly made another at a different place because the place I had made the appointment kindly sent out an e-mail saying that the site at which I signed up was for staff only. The State failed to test the site. I had a new much later appointment and read the instruction email that came AFTER I had made the first appointment so I THOUGHT my husband was covered too. I got a second email saying I had cancelled an appointment and had not made another. I had and it showed on the VAMS site. A friend, who made all the mistakes I did, called the second site and learned that we again signed up at a staff only site—4 days after this mess rolled out. He learned that we needed to cancel our appointment and make a new one. That was not simple in that you had to cancel and go out of the site and go back in to sign up at the “Public Site” of the 2nd place we had made appointments. I had called 211 and the person who answered could not answer my question. I asked for and she gave me the name, phone, number and email of a supervisor, who has still not responded. Trusting nothing I have called the site where we are to get our vaccinations to see if they see my name on the list (it shows on VAMS and I have a confirmation) and if my husband is included—yes! Now will there be vaccine? Further how many over 75 year olds know what a QR code is and how to get it to show as they say you need to do. The State should have had real over 65 year olds test the site.
Oh, but there is MORE! (I am also a (former) geek and made similar blunders signing up. Make sure that you elect a “State Fixed Site” (identified as State of NH – Lebanon or similar). Hospital locations had been listed and available for appointments. These are only valid for hospital staff. One may cancel such an appointment and try again “from the top with feeling”. This seems to succeed, but the original appointment still appears on your portal as “cancelled” along with the fixed site appointment. NEXT, you may receive alerts from both the CDC VAMS system and the NH Covid system that you have cancelled and need to reschedule. Upon checking, the appointment still appears. Calls to 211 for help may take a good deal of patience with long, long wait times.
I took a screen shot of this info:
“If you registered a qualifying household member along with yourself (I.e your spouse) to receive the vaccine at the same time, additional information will not be asked for or required when you schedule your appointment. Just arrive with your qualifying family member.”
Same problems here except that after a few days, the VAMS site finally decided that Google Chrome would be required. Why? I rejected that option and tried the 211 again. previously all I got was a busy signal after several tries. Finally, the phone connected and I listened to 20 minutes of mind-numbing repetitions of simplified instructions. When I was connected to a welcoming female real person, she was calm and reassuring and most of all, competent. In less than 10 minutes, I was signed in for an appointment in Nashua. March 16, but at least, my wife isn’t nagging about getting this done.
I followed the directions and signed up for spot on Friday, Jan. 29th in Littleton. Subsequently received official appointment and QR code. However, in calling the listed organization for directions, I was informed they were NOT an official site. Cue calls to 211 for verification, wait times and no help from “overload” operators, I finally cancelled my bogus appt., and rescheduled at another site at a much later date. Wondering now how many expected vaccine recipients will show up at Littleton site tomorrow due to erroneous info?
Thank you for this article. It gave me many smiles and lots of encouragement and you are less expensive than a therapist. And in this particular case, better.
Another potential snafu: preregistering with an email address that has already been entered for another person. My 86 year old mother does not have and email address, so I put in mine. Since I have already been scheduled for both vaccines (as a health care worker), VAMS never sent us an invitation to register and schedule the appointment. When I called 211 after 3 days of waiting, they said it might take 3-5 days, despite everyone I know getting their invitation within a day. Now we are so far behind the curve, and despite re-registering without an email address, I still have not received a call back for scheduling.
My wife signed us up on Friday when we were first eligible as 1b geezers and indicated she was also signing up me as a family member. We received the state FAQ email, that was helpful and she booked an appointment for early March on the VAMS site.
At this point I have no idea if I am actually registered. Several days ago we both received multiple emails and texts from the state asking us to confirm. I indicated I was not sure about my status but so far have not received a reply from the state.
Right now we are both going to show up for the appointment and if I get the vaccine great if not I will register myself for later.
Agree with some of the other comments that it is great the state has been able to set up online vaccine registration but web sites leave something to be desired and it is too bad the state site is not able to communicate with the fed.
We have not used the 211 voice number but have heard anecdotal reports that is does not always work. I assume (know what they say) access depends on the phone carrier creating special routing for 211. The state should also have publish alternate phone numbers in case 211 access does not work.