arm getting injection

Now that the coronavirus vaccine is here, the question on many minds is “when and how will I get it?”

At Hands-On Rehab, an occupational therapy practice in Valhalla, N.Y., north of New York City, all the therapists and support staff are scheduled to get vaccinated the week of Jan. 10. They are in Phase 1B, according to the state’s plan, beginning Jan. 4. But finding out how and when to get vaccinated turned out to be quite challenging, according to Patricia (Pat) Buxton, the office manager at Hands-On.

They learned early this week — right after New Year’s Day — how to sign up for vaccinations, and wound up arranging to get them at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Dobbs Ferry. Megan Gotlieb-Horowitz, the owner and director, said they found other places that were saying they would offer vaccines, like Westchester Medical Center and several Long Island sites, but they didn’t have signup spots online or were further away.

She said the most important information she got about actually getting in line came via email, from a network that she’s a member of, offering “a link to more information for you & your outpatient staff members on how to go about signing up for the Covid-19 vaccine — which turned out to be the New York roadmap for vaccine distribution.

She said she also heard some useful information on Facebook. She also said that other networks and trade associations would probably also be delivering useful information to its members in a similar fashion.

Pages and links not working

Pat Buxton, the office manager, explained that the initial pages and links were not all working when the New York State page went live, so there was a certain amount of frustration — if you missed a step, or chose a site near you that wasn’t accepting registration, then you’d need to start over again. She said that they knew they would be in Phase 1B starting Monday, Jan. 4, but that there was no information available over the weekend. But by Jan. 4, she said, “there was the beginnings of information,” and they were ultimately able to sign up.

She said the site was not as user-friendly as one might hope, but it ultimately did work.

“You fill out the form and runs you through a few questions and then tells you ‘Yes, you’re eligible’ or ‘No, you’re not,'” she said. “If you qualify, it gives you a confirmation receipt that says ‘Thank you very much. You filled out the form, take this registration number with you to your provider who’s going to do the vaccination.’ We fell into the category of ‘Yes, we are eligible,’ because we are patient-facing.

“If you are eligible, it opens the door to 20 pages worth of places where you’re supposed to be able to get the vaccine and then and then you click into that to schedule an appointment. I think some of the stuff had been entered a little prematurely, because while many of those places are going to be up and running, some of them are not there yet. And all you have in the link is a brochure — no place to sign up. The ones that are truly active, there are telephone numbers.”

Is it open? Maybe not.

She called Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, near to Hands-On, and they told her to call a main number for the parent organization, Northwell Health, and she called that number. She gave her information, and they supplied an email with a link to all the places that were available — which were all miles away, on Long Island, she said. So she called the 800 number at the bottom of the email — where she learned that “there isn’t anything closer.”

Looking again at the other places, she emailed another nearby provider listed, Westchester Medical Center, and received a response “Your email was received and we will respond within an appropriate time.”

Several other places were listed as active, but didn’t have an email or a phone number, she said.

What was the key? A physician who works at Phelps and is being treated at Hands-On came in, and when they discussed this with the physician, she said, “There are lots of openings at Phelps.” Buxton called back and made a Phelps connection.

Her guess, she said, is that she spoke with Phelps at 10 in the morning and there were no appointments — and then in the afternoon, Phelps opened up slots “11 to 4 on their schedule for next week, Monday through Friday. And I would not have known about this had I not compared notes with one of our patients who had had her people sign up for the vaccines.”

Situation changing

She guesses that Northwell “gave me whatever they had available at that time in terms of a distribution sites, and when they opened up new distribution sites, they didn’t go back and say ‘Hey, did you want to go to Phelps? I noticed that I gave you a location site over an hour’s drive away.'”

The situation seems to be changing, she added — with some sites coming on line, and others changing their hours, so it’s important to check. For Northwell sites on Long Island, she said, there are late evening hours, while “Phelps is only doing it from 11 in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon.”

She also said the staff members are required to have a work photo ID or a pay stub to prove employment when they go to get vaccinated. They also have to have a photo ID, the registration form and confirmation ticket, she added.

“They can’t just slide somebody in, that’s somebody’s brother-in-law or whatever, and say, oh, while I’m here, would you give, Uncle Joe a shot?” she said. “We have to prove that we are employed as occupational therapists, medical providers, in my case, the office manager. But I couldn’t bring along a husband or child or anything and say, please vaccinate them while you’re here.”

Is it a drive-through or walk-in? She doesn’t know.

She did add: “One of the things they say in the fine print in one of these web pages is that they’re going to have you stay there for a few minutes to make sure that you don’t have an allergic reaction.”

She added: “I have to give some kudos to the New York State Department of Health on the fact that they put these apps together that will help you answer the questions in a very efficient, streamlined way. If you’re not eligible, you may not be happy being told by a computer, you’re not eligible yet. But I’m sure it saves a lot of confusion and manpower. It was easy enough to fill out their questions online and have it spit back immediately, you’re eligible, here are the different places. And if you’re not eligible, it will just say, sorry, try back.”

How they did it

She wrote this handy guide to how they did it.

Step One:
Here is the link to the NYS Vaccine Program:

Toward the bottom of the web page for phase 1A is a little blue “click” mid-sentence that will send you to the preregistration form to complete in preparation for receiving vaccine from any NYS distribution site. Complete the form and you receive an email confirming receipt of your submission along with instructions on printing to paper or phone to show vaccine provider prior to getting the first shot.

Step Two:
Really handy app that went live only Tuesday 1/5/21:

Answer the questions & it will tell you if you are currently eligible to schedule appointment for vaccine. If you are; you may set a driving distance radius in your search to return all the vaccine distribution centers in your area.

Once you’ve located where you want to go, follow the prompts to get that center’s instructions on how to schedule an appointment. There are multiple providers and each has their own processes (and additional requirements) That’s where research really begins 🙂

The Phase 1B eligibility list

Here’s what Phase 1B includes, per the New York State site:

Beginning January 4, 2021:

  • All Outpatient/Ambulatory front-line, high-risk health care workers of any age who provide direct in-person patient care
  • All staff who are in direct contact with patients (i.e., intake staff)
  • All front-line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, including those conducting COVID-19 tests, handling COVID-19 specimens and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • This includes, but is not limited to,
    Doctors who work in private medical practices and their staff
  • Doctors who work in hospital-affiliated medical practices and their staff
  • Doctors who work in public health clinics and their staff
  • Registered Nurses
  • Specialty medical practices of all types
  • Dentists and Orthodontists and their staff
  • Psychiatrists and Psychologists and their staff
  • Physical Therapists and their staff
  • Optometrists and their staff
  • Pharmacists and Pharmacy Aides
  • Home care workers
  • Hospice workers
  • Staff of nursing homes/skilled nursing facilities who did not receive COVID vaccination through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program

Following vaccinations for the health care sector, New York will move to Phase 1B of the distribution, which will include:

  • Teachers and education workers
  • First responders
  • Public safety workers
  • Public transit workers
  • People 75 and older

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...