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.