CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – With vaccines still in short supply, CBS 17 wanted to know how well mass vaccination sites are working to serve those who are eligible to receive the shot.
Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia chronicled his own experience inside the UNC vaccination site in Chapel Hill where he got his shot after weeks of trying to make an appointment.
UNC offers mass vaccinations at its Friday Center and it promises it will be an efficient process if you get an appointment.
It says its goal is to get people in and out in an hour.
“Every day it’s problem-solving and figuring out where you need more resources,” said Elizabeth Ramsey, who is the director of clinical business operations for UNC Faculty Physicians.
When Sbraccia arrived for his appointment at the Friday Center, there were hundreds of people ahead of of him.
He said he wasn’t sure UNC would be able to hold to the one hour goal.
But, once inside, he moved through the system quickly – shuffling from computer station to computer station where volunteers collected the necessary information needed to establish vaccination records for the state and UNC.
Within 20 minutes, he was moved to a booth to get the shot.
Before it was administered, the volunteer nurse handed him his documentation, which consists of a CDC approved COVID-19 vaccination card.
It contains all the information about the type of dose, the date administered, and when the second shot is required.
After the vaccination, you will spend part of your hour at the Friday Center waiting to see that your body accepted the vaccine without complications.
Those who have been vaccinated are placed in a socially distanced hall with dozens of others, where they wait about 20 minutes.
While you are waiting, other volunteers are working to schedule your second dose.
Once your observation period is over, you are free to go.
For Sbraccia, the whole experience lasted about 50 minutes from start to finish.
It turns out getting the vaccination was the easy part. Trying to get an appointment for the shot is still touch-and-go as one Cary man explained.
“My wife is getting her shots in Rocky Mount and I’m getting mine in Durham,” said Charlie Norton. “We’re happy to have gotten them at all.”
Norton has been scrambling for weeks trying to get an appointment with no luck. He has haunted county, state and medical websites since they opened the vaccine up to 65-year-olds.
“Every day we’d check if there was an availability,” he said. “Finally, one day it turned out there was an appointment available in Rocky Mount and I signed up my wife.”
But, by the time he completed entering her information, there were no appointments left when he tried to sign up himself.
Eventually Norton found one, through luck.
“When I was out walking my dog, I saw a neighbor and told her what’s going on,” said Norton.
He said she told him, “I know someone who signed up at a little pharmacy in Durham.”
When he emailed the drug store, they replied two days later offering an appointment.
Now, he and his wife are now waiting for their second dose in widely different parts of the state.
Norton said he was surprised were you at how confused the situation still is months after the vaccines were first made available.
“I was shocked and distressed,” he said. “We (the United States) put this huge effort to get the vaccine and they weren’t ready to distribute it.”
“How useful is the vaccine if it’s sitting in freezers, with no arms to put it in,” he said.
He said, “The lesson here is perseverance.”