Marissa Ryan, a Conshohocken resident, says she has put her parents on vaccine waiting lists in their home county, Montgomery, but also in Philadelphia, Lehigh County and New Jersey counties.
“I’ve been trying to get the vaccine for both of my parents since early January with little to no luck,” Ryan said. “I’m mostly trying to get a vaccine for my parents, also my brother, who has a blood disorder.”
Montgomery County has a difficult history with COVID. The county previously made headlines as a Commonwealth hotspot, often reporting daily case numbers of over 400 throughout December and January. Following the vaccine rollout, Montgomery County again made headlines for distribution errors and dose shortages and the county’s system is still struggling.
“Rite Aids all over the state have the vaccine, but they don’t have a single time that appointments become available and you just have to get lucky,” Amanda Lewis, a PsyD candidate at LaSalle University said. “They’re all really unorganized.”
Ryan reported the same issues with using the RiteAid tracker, saying appointments usually drop in the middle of the night, making it more difficult to secure an appointment.
“The whole scheduling process is really upsetting and frustrating,” Ryan said. “We are completely understanding that this is a very difficult process, but I know many people that work from home that are getting the vaccine and then you have people that truly need it, or work with the public that cannot get it. The whole process is very disorganized and hopefully they can get it under control soon.”
After weeks of trying, Lewis was able to schedule her own vaccine appointment using the RiteAid Tracker. Following suggestions from social media, she logged on around 1:00 a.m. was able to secure her spot.
Lewis is also helping to secure a vaccine appointment for her parents who live in Connecticut. She was able to find an available appointment for her father with much less trouble. After vaccinating healthcare workers and long-term and congregate facility employees and residents, vaccine distribution was prioritized by age group.
“They make you register through a vaccine portal and then you can sign on to schedule your appointment and it shows all the locations within a 50 mile radius and whether or not they have available appointments,” Lewis said.
In an effort to decrease wait times, Montgomery County began accepting additional first doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Pfizer first doses are offered to 1A residents between the ages of 16-18. Currently, over 180,000 Montgomery County residents have received the first dose.
“The Montgomery County Office of Public Health has received all of its expected first and second doses to date of both Pfizer and Moderna,” said Kelly Cofrancisco, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Communications Director.
Despite the new supply, and President Biden’s anticipation to secure enough vaccines for American adults by May, residents are facing the same difficulties, most stemming from attempting to use the county COVID website, or with the RiteAid Tracker.
In a press conference on March 3, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair, Valerie Arkoosh said she’s hoping for increased transparency from the PA Department of Health.
“I don’t want to speak for my colleagues, but I think it’s probably fair to say none of us understand what the allocation algorithm is for the Southeastern Pennsylvania counties,” Arkoosh said. “I’m looking for more transparency, I’m looking to see how these allocation decisions are being made. I’m hoping once that information is given to us and we understand it, we will be able to better advocate for more doses here to our region.”
Facebook groups have launched to support those struggling to find vaccine appointments. PA COVID Vaccine Matchmaker is a group for Southeastern PA and users post fliers for vaccine appointments and tips on securing a spot.