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caption: KUOW reader Marilyn Perles.
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KUOW reader Marilyn Perles.
Credit: Courtesy of Marilyn Perles

How do I sign up for the Covid vaccine? 'Hang tight,' health officials say

It will be several weeks before that much is clear.

Marilyn Perles is just looking for the right paperwork.

“I would like to have somebody tell me that I need to fill out X form — whom I contact," she said. "Or how I register, and how I would be notified when it’s my turn? That's really all I need to know.”

Perles is 79, retired, and has lung damage.

She moved to Seattle about four years ago to be with family, from which the pandemic has now kept her physically distant.

“I really miss actually going into my daughter’s house and hugging her and my grandchildren,” Perles said. “Can’t do any of that.”

These days she sits at home a lot — knitting, watching movies, and searching for the answer to this question.

Every day she scrolls through multiple websites (including the state’s official Covid-19 vaccine page and KUOW’s pandemic blog) trying to find the answer. So she asked us, “How and where do people register for the Covid-19 vaccine?”

I posed that question to Michele Roberts, Acting Assistant Secretary at the Washington State Department of Health, who oversees Covid-19 vaccine planning and distribution.

“I guess the bottom line is, hang tight. More information to come within the next few weeks to answer that question,” she said.

The department is working on “a number of tools” for the public to find their place in line, get notified, and get connected to where they can get vaccinated, Roberts said.

Health care providers will probably notify their patients who are high-risk when it’s their turn, she added.

And, at this point, big questions still loom.

“We still need to make decisions about who’s coming next and in what order,” Roberts said.

The Department of Health is waiting to hear what a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee thinks about that. This weekend, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will make a decision on who the next two groups in line will be, Roberts said.

“Our goal is that everybody is going to have more than one way to find out when it’s their turn in line and where they go to get the vaccine,” Roberts said. “So those are all the systems we’re working on putting in place over the next few weeks.”

For Perles, this non-answer answer was completely unsatisfying.

“Well, I would have thought that that kind of planning would have been pre-vaccine authorization; that that plan would have been in place even before they had the ability to carry it out,” Perles said. “But, you know, it's kind of late in the process to begin to decide how you do that.”

Washington state actually does have a Covid-19 vaccination plan, but it doesn’t answer any of Perles’ questions, even though it’s 72 pages long.

Perles thinks she’s paged through it online.

“And I thought, ‘No, I'm not reading this, because this is all theoretical — I don't really need to know about their committee meetings,” Perles said.

That document was written for the CDC after all, not necessarily the general public. The uncertainty surrounding how Perles can sign up to get the Covid vaccine is weighing on her.

“I feel very lost. You know, like I'm just floating around going, ‘I have no idea what's coming next,’” she said. “And that's not a great feeling.”

I also reached out to Perles’ health care provider, the Polyclinic, and got the following response from spokesperson Karen Johnson:

“We’re working closely with the Washington State Department of Health to receive COVID-19 vaccine shipments as soon as they’re available to us. Our vaccine delivery date hasn’t yet been confirmed. Vaccinations will be prioritized according to state guidelines. In the coming weeks, The Polyclinic will establish a COVID-19 vaccination clinic onsite with its own scheduling phone line. We encourage patients to check our website for the latest information.”

And she shared the link to their page, which I sent to Perles to perhaps become one more routine stop in her daily search for answers.

This was a bit more satisfying.

"I think her answer is one step closer to giving me at least a starting point to eventually figure out my next step!" Perles said over email. "Would also appreciate your sending me any updated info that you get!"