To the editor:
I’d like to compliment the Alexandria Health Department for exceptional planning and execution of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the residents of Alexandria.
As we turned the page from 2020 to 2021, there was a tremendous amount of confusion about the distribution prospects for the COVID vaccine. Fifty states, and seemingly each of those state’s counties, were flailing, not only on policies to stop the spread of the virus but also establishing priorities of recipients, and the logistics of getting limited number of shots into the arms of our citizens. Our experience with the AHD and getting our first shots belies that concern.
Early in January, my wife and I learned through the AHD’s COVID-19 update letter on the website where we could pre-register for our vaccines. The AHD COVID update letter became an invaluable source of information on the process and progress in Alexandria’s fight against the pandemic.
My wife and I each filled out and submitted our form on Jan. 13. Frankly I was skeptical, as the instructions essentially said, “Don’t worry, you don’t need to call; you’ll receive notification by email or telephone when you are scheduled.”
It seemed like sending a “mayday” message into the ether, wondering if it would be heard as I soon learned that 20,000 residents had submitted the form and that only about 2,000 shots were available to be administered each week. The numbers did not seem in our favor.
Then, unexpectedly, during the first week of February, the AHD update noted that that all persons that had pre-registered before Jan. 12 had been scheduled and that further news would follow. Wow!
My skepticism was being replaced with hope, and then surprise. On Feb. 15 we received an email that we were scheduled to receive our first shots on Feb. 27. We dutifully arrived on the 27th at George Washington Middle School as instructed.
Lots of cars, lots of people and lots of guides. Guides for parking. Guides who direct you to other guides with iPads that electronically filled out required questionnaires and submitted them on your behalf. Guides with the information on how to schedule your second shot. Guides to show you the way into the gym filled with tables of caregivers to administer the shot. Guides to direct you to the next available table where caregivers confirmed your identification, explained the next step, and gave the shot and the all-important card that showed you received the vaccine. Guides close by as you waited afterward for 15 minutes in case you experienced a reaction to the shot.
Throughout the process, despite the number of people, we experienced no wait times. We moved quickly from one information point to another and before we knew it, we were back in our car. It was 50 minutes from arrival to departure.
The AHD deserves recognition for managing a way through this pandemic. Our experience is undoubtably like many others. The foresight and execution of their distribution plan could very well serve as a model for the rest of the country. We are grateful for their expertise and caring.
-Erick and Margaret Chiang, Alexandria