Getting a COVID vaccine can feel like winning the lottery. Here’s how some Maryland residents did it.

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For some, it’s like winning the lottery.

Getting an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland can feel like the 2021 equivalent of striking gold, and it often requires patience, persistence and a bit of luck. That’s especially true for the newly eligible — those who aren’t getting vaccinated through their employer or place of residence, and have largely been left to their own devices to secure scarce bookings to get their shots. The lack of appointments is exacerbated by a nationwide vaccine shortage.


Success can come down to refreshing an appointment booking website at precisely the right moment. Other times, the lucky ones are sitting by the computer when a text alert comes through, advertising fresh appointments at a mass vaccination site nearby.

Maryland’s vaccination rollout has attracted criticism, especially for what has been a largely decentralized structure. Many eligible Marylanders who weren’t part of the initial rollout, which included health care workers, nursing home staff and residents and certain essential workers, are entering their names on a litany of lists: at their doctor’s offices, pharmacies, health departments.


Among them are older adults, some of whom have relied on younger, more technology-savvy family members, teachers desperate to be inoculated before they return to the classroom, and people with health conditions that make COVID-19 infections even more perilous.

Here are some of their stories:

Gerardo Cervantes, 49, Baltimore County

Got a vaccine after more than a month of trying

Gerardo Cervantes couldn’t believe the way some people downplayed the severity of COVID-19 and questioned whether they should get vaccinated, especially given the toll the pandemic has taken in Maryland and across the globe.

Gerardo Cervantes expresses relief after finally getting his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Baltimore Convention Center on a recent Monday morning. Cervantes, a construction worker, had been worried about bringing the virus home to his family.

The construction worker, who lives in Overlea, said his doctor urged him to get vaccinated due to his risk of exposure and high blood sugar. Cervantes spent more than a month applying for appointments with Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland Medical System and elsewhere. He got his first dose earlier this month at the Baltimore Convention Center through UMMS, he said.

Cervantes isn’t sure exactly what worked — other than his persistence.

“I sent it many times,” he said. “I was lucky.”

Cervantes said he still wears his mask and maintains social distance, as recommended. But the knowledge that he will soon be receiving his second dose is a relief when he comes home from work.

“In my mind, I feel more comfortable for me and my family,” he said.


Roy Delgado, 43, Baltimore County

Helped get loved ones vaccinated through their doctor’s offices

The morning that COVID-19 vaccines became available to all Marylanders age 75 and older, Roy Delgado woke up at 5 a.m. — before work, before his kids would be getting ready for virtual school — in hopes of finding appointments for his older relatives.

He hadn’t been sure whether he could put their names onto any lists before they technically became eligible that Monday. The confusion might have cost him precious time.

Delgado has helped secure first doses of the vaccine for both of his parents and his mother-in-law, all in their 70s. But it took him about 10 days to get it done.

Roy Delgado, a Baltimore County resident, secured vaccination appointments for several of his older family members after several days of searching.

Delgado kept a list of every hospital, clinic and pharmacy nearby that were offering shots. He’d check their websites each day, in between meetings while working from home. He lost count of the number of times he entered in his loved ones’ information only to see that no appointments were available. Sometimes, an appointment was within reach, but the page crashed, sending him back to square one.

He learned not to call his parents and ask them which appointment time might work for them. It was schedule first, ask questions later.

“I had made that mistake previously where I thought I had an appointment for my mother-in-law at a Giant, and I stopped to call her and ask what day and what time she wanted, but by the time I got her on the phone and went to click through, all of their appointments were gone.”


But it was his mother-in-law’s doctor’s office that came through first.

“There was a lot of rejoicing. There was a lot of excitement. And then there was no rest,” he said.

Delgado still had to find appointments for his parents. Eventually, he secured appointments with their primary care doctors and specialists. Delgado himself got vaccinated through his job working for the state.

“We’re really blessed that all of them have made it through this process so far,” Delgado said. “I am half African American and half Hispanic. And we’ve seen just through extended family and friends, how hard it’s been in our community.”

Andrew Conyers, 33, Baltimore City

Vaccinated at the Six Flags America site, with help from an MDReady text alert

When Andrew Conyers booked his appointment at the Six Flags America vaccination site in Prince George’s County, he was “ecstatic.”

He was sitting at his computer, preparing for his first period of the day of virtual school, when he got a text alert that appointments were available at the site, and jumped online. (To sign up for these alerts, text “MDReady” to 898-211, or “MDListo” for alerts in Spanish.)

Andrew Conyers, a ninth grade teacher who lives in Baltimore City, secured a vaccine appointment at the Six Flags America site in Prince George's County after getting a text alert from the state.

When Conyers, a ninth grade teacher at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, reached the website, the first available day was already booked, but the second was still open.

“It’s very nerve-wracking: this idea of going back [to teaching in person] without a vaccine, especially now that the vaccine is available, so I was extremely ecstatic. Like, I ran upstairs to tell my wife,” Conyers said.

He’ll get his second dose March 7, the day before he’s supposed to report back to school.

But he’s worried for his colleagues, especially the older ones, many of whom haven’t been so lucky.

“It’s not like I could just hold the spot for them, so I kind of also feel a little guilty about that,” he said.

“Months ago, I randomly opted into annoying text messages, and then I found out about a vaccination appointment that I could get,” Conyers said.


Mary Hennigan, 70, Baltimore City

Vaccinated as a patient with UMMC

Mary Hennigan of Patterson Park was surprised by the relative ease of booking her vaccine appointment at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where she’s a patient.

Hennigan already registered with the Baltimore City Health Department when she decided to call her doctor’s office, and was shocked to discover she could schedule an appointment right then and there.

“I was stunned, because they said ‘What day?’ and then I said: ‘Oh, I’ll take Friday.’ And then she went: ‘What time?’ and I was like, ‘What?’”

These days, Hennigan said, she almost feels guilty about her success, especially since she’s heard from many less fortunate friends.

“It’s almost like you don’t want to say, ‘I got a shot,’” Hennigan said, “because these people are in their 80s, and they’ve hung out on every computer line waiting to get on and then are being told, ‘Sorry, there’s no more places.’”

Hennigan is also frustrated that she hasn’t been able to remove her name from Baltimore City’s list.


“I just worry that we’re going to lose faith in our public health system because of this,” she said.

Michael Weston, 77, Anne Arundel County

Vaccinated through the county department of health

When Anne Arundel County’s health department released an online form to sign up for vaccine alerts, Michael Weston was quick to enter his name.

Days later, he was notified that appointments were on the way, and then they finally sent a link offering appointments at Anne Arundel Community College.

“Twenty minutes later I have a scheduled appointment for the next day at 10 o’clock,” Weston said.

Plus, he was able to share the wealth.


“I got mine, I called a friend of ours who I know is waiting to get a vaccine, and she got right on the line, and within 10 minutes she had an appointment, but hers was for three days later,” Weston said.

Weston was among the Anne Arundel County registrants who had their second dose appointments pushed back slightly due to a lack of supply, he said, but he’s since been fully vaccinated.

Since he booked his appointment, Weston has even received emails from the University of Maryland Cardiology and the VA hospital offering appointments.

“I thought: It never rains, but it pours,” he said.

Candice McDay, 36, of Greenbelt, waits the required 15 minutes after getting her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Baltimore City Community College gym last week. She qualified for the vaccine both through her job at a COVID-19 testing clinic in Annapolis and her role as a Prince George’s County volunteer firefighter/medic. (Colin Campbell/The Baltimore Sun)

Candice McDay, 36, Prince George’s County

Vaccinated through her job at a COVID-19 testing clinic

Candice McDay qualified for a vaccine both as an employee at Sameday Testing, a COVID-19 testing clinic in the Annapolis Mall, and as a firefighter/medic in the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire Department.

“It wasn’t horrible for me,” said McDay, who lives in Greenbelt. “I got an appointment through work easier than the fire department.”


McDay received her second vaccine dose at the Baltimore City Community College earlier this month, after getting the first one at the city’s initial clinic in Port Covington in January. She wore a KN95 mask as she waited in one of the 6-feet-apart chairs in the observation area for the required 15 minutes afterward.

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“I like this location better than the other one,” McDay said.

The 36-year-old has spent the pandemic working. In addition to her job and volunteer firefighting duties, she works part-time as a temperature checker at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. McDay said she hoped she wouldn’t experience any negative side effects from the vaccine.

“I do have a shift,” she said. “I’d like to be able to make it.”

Brian Rice, 29, Baltimore County

Vaccinated as a community health worker in Baltimore
Brian Rice gets the COVID-19 vaccine from Keyshla Tubens, a pharmacy student volunteer, at Baltimore City Community College.

Brian Rice wore a Sonic the Hedgehog mask and had his picture taken as the needle went into his arm at the BCCC gym earlier this month. The community health worker said he and other Baltimore City Health Department employees got appointments through work as members of the 1A group.

Rice, who volunteers on Fridays at the city vaccination clinic, signed up for his second dose immediately after he got his first, he said. But when the department also sent out links to employees for second-dose appointments, some forwarded them to people who had not gotten their first, he said.


“That caused a big uproar, because a lot of people’s appointments were being canceled,” he said.

Rice helps Baltimoreans navigate the process of registering for an appointment. He acknowledged that few are currently available, relegating many vaccine seekers to request forms for the convention center and other clinics. He referred city residents with questions to the health department: 410-396-4436.