KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A nurse in Florida and her sister, got online to get their 85-year-old mother an appointment for a vaccine in Knox County in early January, they didn’t get a spot.
Upset, and feeling like she failed, Susan Day Richards’ sister called her in tears.
“She said to me, ‘ “Mom’s life was in my hands and I was responsible for not being able to get her a shot… and that’s what was so sad,” said Richards over Facetime Thursday.
It’s been two weeks since they attempted to make an online appointment to get one of the 975 doses available at Knox County Health Department’s second vaccination clinic. The first clinic was first-come, first served.
The second clinic, reservation only.
By the time her sister was online Richards said it was over. She entered an email incorrectly, she believes, and was sent back to correct it. The seconds it took to do so, led to the spots getting filled.
It wasn’t her fault, but Richards said the guilt was hard to handle.
“It shouldn’t be like that,” she said.
She was upset and concerned about how quickly the online-spots were full. In less than an hour, all 975 reservations were taken.
“My mom said it very nicely, she said, ‘Susan I just can’t believe I didn’t get a shot because I called the nice ladies several times at the [Knox County] health department and they’re just as nice as can be on the phone but its not going to get you anywhere you’re not going to get a COVID shot,’” said Richards.
She thought about it in the days that followed and talked to more friends who still live in East Tennessee. Richards believed that if her mother, who had both daughters working to get her a spot, couldn’t get one. What about the others who don’t have internet access, tech-savvy friends or family, or even, the ability to get online?
A representative at KCHD, Richards said, described the process with a metaphor: “It’s like when you go online to buy concert tickets, in that moment, it made me really feel bad. And I said I hope all of these people are still alive when their ticket becomes available. I was very upset.”
On Thursday KCHD announced changes to the reservation process for the next COVID-19 vaccination clinic during the first week of February. There will be appointments reserved for callers and a wait-list.
Those changes are good news to Richards, but she says, there’s more that could be done to get shots in the arms of high-risk populations.
“It just… you know… it didn’t make sense to us,” said Richards. Days after her first attempt, her mother was able to get a COVID-19 vaccine in another East Tennessee county. She knows they are lucky, but added, “it shouldn’t be this hard.”