Oliver: Anxiety over COVID-19 vaccination proves worse than process itself

Persistence pays off to find shot appointments nearby

Life as a caregiver can be complicated. Then again, life for everyone during this pandemic can be. So it’s not surprising that trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine would be a bumpy process.

First, there was the issue that Tony and I are not 65 or older. Despite Tony’s Alzheimer’s disease, he is 63 years old and didn’t qualify for the first round of vaccinations.

Because I’ve battled cancer and therefore am considered at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, I qualified in the initial expansion of Phase 1b.

At first, Tony did not. So I had to figure out where to get a shot that was close enough to home so that Tony could be left alone for a very short time.

Needless to say, this was stressful. However, right about the time I was eligible to start signing up for a vaccination appointment, the McHenry County Department of Health switched the way it was doing things. Instead of them contacting me, I now had to go through the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website and look for an opening there. Meanwhile, I also received an invitation to seek an appointment at one of the Northwestern Medicine sites because I am a cancer patient in their system.

I thought this would help my chances of getting in somewhere. I was wrong.

I almost got an appointment for a shot at the hospital in Woodstock. Unfortunately, I hesitated because I couldn’t figure out what I’d do with Tony. By the time I went back for it, it was gone.

When Phase 1b was opened up to members of the media, a bunch of my co-workers were able to score appointments. Somehow I missed out on that, so I was back to checking the state site over and over again. I checked a couple of pharmacy sites, too, but struck out there as well.

At this point, I was having trouble finding something for myself. Never mind that I had to figure out how in the world I’d get Tony vaccinated, too.

Then, in what seemed to be the 50th time I filled out the questionnaire on the state site, I noticed that not only had Phase 1b been expanded to include media members, but it also now included those with disabilities not listed previously. This meant Tony was eligible for a shot, too!

So once more I checked the state site, certain that it would have the same four already-filled days listed as it had over and over again before. But this time it had a new date, and practically the entire afternoon was still open!

I quickly grabbed a time slot for myself and then jumped right back onto the website to get Tony a spot, too. Happily, we were able to go at the same time.

If you’re just now eligible, or if you’re still needing to make an appointment, there’s often a link to open slots at in the “Vaccine Central” section of the website. I also hear that can be helpful. The main thing is to not give up.

When the day came, I was still nervous about getting Tony and me through it. After all, I’d have to fill out the forms for both of us. What if they didn’t let us stay together? What if Tony got nervous and wasn’t able to follow the directions?

Ultimately, I didn’t really have to worry about any of that. We went to the old Kmart building in McHenry, and it was a model of efficiency.

Once we got into the correct line, we had no trouble at all. The volunteers were great about guiding us to the proper stops. The National Guard members who manned the checkpoints were polite and got us through quickly. And not once did anyone suggest that Tony and I would have to be separated. In fact, the volunteer who took us to the nurse for the shots made sure that it was OK that we could stay together.

After we each got a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, we sat for 15 minutes to make sure there were no allergic reactions. I used that time to get us signed up for our second doses later this month. We were out of there in less than 30 minutes.

The hardest part of the process was getting signed up in the first place. That, and my unfounded fears.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.