No more shots in the dark

Information networks help North Carolinians (like me!) find their vaccines

I got my first “Fauci Ouchie” (of the Moderna variety) Tuesday afternoon at the former Wayne County Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, about 80 miles from here. Why Wayne UNC? It was the closest place with an available appointment at a convenient time, though I had tried several times daily, as soon as I was eligible, to get a vaccination closer to home.

I chose not to wait for a local appointment because I’m eager to congregate safely with other folks again. By mid-May, after I’ve gotten my second jab and let it settle in, I won’t be uneasy going out for a beer or playing cards with “the poker men” (all of whom are older than me) or galumphing the Great and Powerful Baxter to the dog park — taking all the necessary precautions. I’ll continue masking and social distancing, if requested, as an act of courtesy as much as anything.

I found an appointment at a medical facility I didn’t know existed thanks to the formal and informal information networks that have sprung up as the first shots became available. Anyone in North Carolina who has navigated or knows someone who can navigate basic social information networks can find a place where helpful people are putting shots in arms.

North Carolina officials created an online portal — — letting anyone enter a ZIP code and find pharmacies, hospitals, drive-in clinics, and other outlets offering vaccines within a radius the patient sets. Hospital networks and county health offices let you sign up for wait lists and notify you by email, text, or phone call when an appointment opens.

I signed up on every portal I could find, checking each several times daily. 

I also followed the Twitter account of the vaccine clinic at the main campus of UNC Health Care. On it, an employee posts notices around noon daily if the clinic expects to have extra doses; if so, people can call for appointments. (Almost got one last week. But no sooner than I saw the opening and began signing up, it was taken.)

Then there’s Joe Bruno, a reporter for WSOC-TV in Charlotte. As he handles reporting assignments, he drops by vaccine clinics to check available appointments. With the station’s blessing, he posts that information on his Twitter feed.

I nominate Joe for The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

North Carolina generally gets decent marks for COVID vaccine distribution. The CDC says we rank 36th nationally in the percentage of the population fully vaccinated. That may mislead. Roughly 2 million of the 10 million North Carolina residents are younger than 16, and not eligible for a shot. Of those eligible, 35.9% have gotten one dose, 22.5% are fully vaccinated. State officials have identified nearly 1 million COVID cases. Among the adult population, we’re at roughly 46% immunity.

Not bad.

Local information, shared widely, has let anyone with a little tech savvy and a bit of curiosity get on with their lives.

How’d my first dose go? Everyone at UNC Wayne was great. Friendly, courteous, efficient. The waiting area was uncrowded. People moved along quickly. The shot was as painless as could be. You could barely detect the place I got poked (didn’t need a bandage!). As I waited to ensure I didn’t have an adverse reaction, I made my appointment for the second jab. Other than sleeping more soundly Tuesday night than I have in months, I’ve noticed no major side effects.

I’ll be back in four weeks. It’s a lovely drive.

Same site, different URL

You may have noticed the address of the home page has changed to It’s still a Substack site with a Substack URL. But I created the “alias” for a couple of reasons: To make articles easier to find on a Google search (don’t ask). And to make it easier to pitch the newsletter. 

Saying “I’m at” is simple. ( was taken. I could have bought it for an exorbitant price. Nah.) Plus, I don’t have to try to explain what Substack is to most people who’ve never heard of Substack and may not really care.

Now that it’s easier to tell your friends where to find me, you know what to do.

Happy 91st(!)* …

To the legendary John Astin. Gomez Addams was an iconic character. So was Buddy. I understand there may be a reboot of “Night Court” (no Harry Anderson, sadly). Maybe Buddy will still be with us.

*Double oops. I didn’t post Tuesday, which was Astin’s birthday. And I shortchanged him a year. Yikes!