San Antonio – Thousands of residents were disappointed Saturday morning after learning all 9,000 slots were filled within minutes of trying to register online to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the Alamodome vaccination site.
“At 8:58, 8:59, I had coffee in hand, sitting in front of the computer all ready with my hands on the keyboard ready to log in,” said Arlene Converse, 71. “I logged in and the site wouldn’t load and then at about 9:02, it loaded and when it loaded, bam! Immediately, registration is full.”
The 9,000 available slots for next week were taken within six minutes of registration opening, according to city officials. More than 11,000 people were on the city’s registration website when it opened at 9 a.m.
The vaccination site at the Alamodome will begin administering the vaccines on Monday.
Converse became eligible to get the vaccine after Phase 1B went in place January 4. She has been struggling to get anywhere near the vaccine.
“I was extremely ready and excited when I heard about this registration process,” Converse said. “I felt like they finally hit the nail on the head. This is what everyone wanted, but this also seemed to fail again.”
She said it was an uphill battle going through the other steps.
“We tried everything when they came out with the layout in San Antonio,” Converse said. “Nobody was answering the phones. None of the websites would work. They were not set up for any inquiries or registrations. Any phone call we made the week prior to this failed. They were overwhelmed, so they couldn’t take all the calls and websites were not set up to answer questions.”
Converse said she did have a moment of hope, but that went south as well.
“I did manage to get one person on the phone January 4,” Converse said. “An actual human being. Come to find out, I wasn’t a first responder so they said I couldn’t get it. I mention to the lady that I had just as much eligibility as a first responder as of January 4, but they wouldn’t do it. That added to more frustration.”
Converse said her biggest issue is that there seems to be a lack of communication.
“We have no clue on the status of anything,” Converse said. “We are very disappointed because there is nobody to talk to or ask for any information. I know some places are upset that people are showing up and lining up without calling but they are doing that because no one is answering the phones. They are hoping to either get information or possibly get the vaccination.”
Converse said getting the COVID-19 vaccine is so important to her.
“Getting the vaccine means I can get on with my life,” Converse said. “I just spent a year of my life sitting in isolation. I have not been with my grandkids. I spent Christmas alone. I didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving. I had a friend invite me over, but I didn’t go. They have us so convinced that if we go out and go anywhere that we are so susceptible to getting the virus so it is important to me to get on with my life to get back in touch with the people I care about and be able to see them.”
She said she encourages everyone to try to get the vaccine as well.
“Even though a lot of people are hesitant to get this vaccine, which I totally understand. I am not excited about getting any vaccine but I am excited that we have an opportunity to have a vaccine that would get us back in a normal lifestyle.”
Converse said she is especially worried about the elderly during this process.
“I work full-time, I am 71, I am healthy and I am a tech person,” Converse said. “But there are a lot of elderly people who don’t have the tech experience. They can’t download apps on their phones or get on the computer to log in. That then falls on their grandchildren but that can be difficult because their family members have their own lives and jobs and things to worry about. Communication is broken. There needs to be a better way for them to be able to register.”
As more vaccines come into the city of San Antonio and Bexar County, registration openings will become more available. For now, city officials are urging patience among residents as more vaccines become available.
“We received 187,000 calls and an overwhelming amount of website visits at 9 a.m. today,” said City Manager Erik Walsh in a statement. “Thank you for your patience. We understand some may be frustrated that there are not more doses available, but we are sending the message to state leaders that we are equipped to deliver every dose that we receive. We’re looking forward to beginning our operation on Monday, and we will keep the community advised as we receive more information from the state.”
Those who are eligible to receive the vaccines include healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities, known as Phase 1A, and Phase 1B, which includes residents over 65-years-old or residents 16 and older with a chronic medical condition.
These chronic medical conditions include: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), heart conditions, solid organ transplantation, obesity and severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.