VAMS: Very Annoying Medical System

The struggle of scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Melina Khan, Copy Editor

Vaccines are providing hope for an end to COVID-19, but obtaining a vaccine is unnecessarily hindered by futile scheduling systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) to aid Americans in scheduling their vaccination appointments. However, considering it’s overseeing the largest-ever public health campaign, the system is wildly ineffective. The appointments made available on VAMS are added at obscure hours and taken within seconds.

In addition to VAMS, Connecticut residents can schedule their vaccine appointments through Hartford HealthCare, Yale New Haven Health, Stamford Health, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart.

Since becoming eligible to receive the vaccine in Connecticut on April 1, I’ve experienced heightened anxiety between looking for appointments at midnight, waking up at 4 a.m. to look again and see increased social media posts on the subject.

I grew up in the age of the internet, and yet I’ve never been so anxious staring at a screen.

Connor Lawless

As someone who copes with anxiety, living through a pandemic has been a challenge. Not only does receiving my vaccine bring me a level of peace, it also means I’m doing my part to end COVID-19. That’s why it was so important for me to schedule my appointment, and yet that was the hardest part.

With each morning that passed, I grew more and more frustrated with a process that should have been easy. I reached out to anyone I knew who successfully scheduled an appointment and took notes on what methods worked best for them, all the while exasperated I had to go to such lengths in the first place.

After airing my annoyance on Twitter, one classmate sent me instructions on the most effective method to book an appointment at CVS. It was a step-by-step, multi-page document complete with screenshots. The fact that it needed to be organized as such wasn’t even the most baffling part about it. The worst part was that in order to schedule an appointment in Connecticut, you had to go through the system as if you were scheduling in a different state that had availability. You would not enter your zip code to find an appointment until the last page.

Though I was able to schedule both of my appointments, the process was challenging, and it shouldn’t have been. In the digital age, scheduling vaccination appointments should be self-explanatory. They should not require extra explanation and strategies to optimize usage.

Being the first of my roommates to successfully schedule my appointment, I’ve also been trying to help them with the process. When I tried the CVS method again, it didn’t work because there was no state with availability, so I couldn’t even get to the steps of inputting information to find availability in Connecticut. The fact that I had to rely on another state with availability just to get to the proper page is ridiculous. It shouldn’t take maneuvering the system to schedule an appointment for a vaccine that so many are still not eligible for.

It’s important to note that all of these struggles come down to one fundamental problem: vaccine availability. That is a whole other can of worms that deserves its own piece, but limited availability of the vaccine itself does not excuse the problems that come with scheduling systems. These systems need to be perfected so that consumers can schedule their appointment regardless of what time of day it is.

I grew up in the age of the internet, and yet I’ve never been so anxious staring at a screen.”

— Melina Khan

The systems available to the general public should not require such extensive effort. Because there is a section of the population that does not want a vaccine, it is all the more important for those who are pro-vaccination to receive theirs in order for society to reach herd immunity. When there are barriers in scheduling, not everyone is going to be as relentless as I was in trying to schedule my doses. I fear there are some out there, including some in the Quinnipiac University community, who will push off receiving their inoculation because of the challenges of scheduling it.

David Hill, Quinnipiac’s senior medical adviser, has said the university is exploring the possibility of having a vaccination site on campus later this month depending on accessibility to the vaccine. Even though my two doses are already scheduled, I am very hopeful that this becomes a reality for the sake of other students who can’t or won’t go out of their way to find an appointment otherwise. Convenience is key, and if we have on-campus vaccinations, I’m confident that more students will receive the vaccine, bringing us one step closer to normalcy as a university.

If you’re still trying to schedule your appointment, don’t stop trying. Be persistent. It will happen eventually. Know that I empathize with you.

If you haven’t tried to schedule yours, please don’t let me discourage you. Your individual act of receiving your vaccine has a larger impact than you realize. In a pandemic that has altered everyone’s life forever, this is what you can do to help others.