After Fran Abbott received her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 19, she soon began to worry about the logistics of getting her second.
The Southern Nevada Health District recently announced that it would email those who received a first dose at any of its locations to schedule a second dose. But Abbott said when she got her first dose as a walk-in at the Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas, she wasn’t asked to provide an email address. Then how did the district contact you? What if a phone message to the district wasn’t returned in time?
“I worry that myself and those who walked in to Cashman might fall through the cracks,” Abbott, 74, said in an email on Sunday, reiterating the uncertainty of many elderly residents about the process, to get her second dose.
Her concerns were allayed Monday morning when a friend shared a link to the health district that allowed her and her husband to book appointments for February 16 at a vaccination site that opened Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. On the site by appointment, second doses are only given to those who received their first doses at the Cashman Center, Western High School, or the Health District headquarters on Decatur Boulevard.
The district had emailed the link to those who were due to have their second dose soon and asked them not to share it, said Jennifer Sizemore, a health district representative.
“We can’t stop you, but we can ask you not to share the link,” she said in the afternoon.
However, by Monday evening, the district had updated its website so anyone who had already received their first exposures could plan their second dose. To create a schedule, people are asked a series of questions to ensure eligibility.
“Unfortunately, vendors need to make sure people can’t play the system, such as a first dose before their turn,” said Julie Swann, director of industrial and systems engineering at North Carolina State University. One way is through a web link that expires after use, Swann said, an approach Sizemore said the district cannot implement in a timely manner.
“The best way to make sure people get an appropriate second dose is to schedule an appointment after receiving the first dose that will return within three to four weeks,” said Swann, an analytics and systems expert, who advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Swine Flu Pandemic.
The district is updating its system so people can schedule first and second appointments at the same time, Sizemore said.
Swann said, “Providers also need to ensure that the rules and guidelines are very clear to patients.”
Those not eligible to get their second dose will be turned away, said Sarah Lugo, senior community health nurse for the health district vaccination.
“We have to make sure we keep this up to make sure everyone who got their first dose is waiting for a second dose,” Lugo said.
At the congress center, participants are asked to present a vaccination card at their first appointment. If necessary, on-site staff can also review an initial dose given through WebIz, the government’s system of vaccination records.
The on-site staff will check that the correct interval has passed before people receive a second dose.
Moderna recommends giving the second dose of its vaccine four weeks after the first dose. For the Pfizer vaccine, the recommended interval is three weeks. However, the CDC has stated that an interval of six weeks is acceptable for any vaccine.
The vaccines are not interchangeable.
There will be a separate line for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the convention center, with recipients receiving color-coded wristbands.
The convention center will handle around 1,400 appointments per day this week, according to representatives of the district, and can handle up to 3,500 appointments per day.
Priority will be given to those with dates, but additional doses might be available if there aren’t shows for dates, Lugo said. These would go to those eligible to receive a second dose on-site, she said – people Abbott feared might have fallen through the cracks.
Contact Mary Hynes at [email protected] or 702-383-0336. Follow @ MaryHynes1 on Twitter.