Getting appointments for vaccines this week felt like holding the golden ticket in Willy Wonka.
After weeks of making calls to nearby vaccination sites and days of busy signals and being on hold, T called a nearby health clinic to complain that he kept on getting cut off after hearing he was number 58 in line, number 42…27..14…2 and then disconnected each time when he was next in line. I was surprised when he actually got through to a human as they’d been so scarce. But a woman, who turned out to be the clinic’s compliance officer, apologized and said that they were overwhelmed with calls so people were being disconnected when they were next in line. She asked for his number and said someone would follow up.
“No one will call you back,” I said, and he agreed I probably was right but it was good to lodge a complaint anyway, maybe it would help someone else. So I was shocked when someone not only called back but said that they would schedule our appointments. And so T went in on Wednesday and I on Friday for that sought after shot in the arm. I feel very lucky to have only a sore arm to show for it and 4 weeks till the next shot and another couple of weeks until full immunity.
And grateful to the lady on the phone and the other staff at the health clinic in Newark who didn’t seem to lose their cool with two packed waiting rooms. Those rooms reflected so clearly the problems I’ve been reading about in terms of who is getting vaccines. Working class people of color waiting to see doctors and middle class older white people waiting for vaccinations. Since 70% of Black people think they are treated unfairly based on race when they get medical care, a majority remain leary of healthcare in general and COVID-19 vaccines in particular.
Between the millions of skeptics and millions more trying to make appointments, let alone the vast numbers not eligible yet, public health officials’ estimates for when we will get everyone vaccinated range from the end of this year to the summer of 2022.
Still, with all the roadblocks and challenges I feel like there’s a glimmer of light I can glimpse at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel, that there is a time in the future when schools will be open every day and we have a fully functioning government and even hugs will be safe again.
On the short trip home we stop at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant along the way, pho for T, chicken for V and I get summer rolls, a perfect foil to a bone chilling January day. I’m glad the little spot has survived. (The new menu with higher prices is hopefully helping them get through a pandemic that has been anathema to so many small businesses.) The food is so good although I miss the ambiance of the place: customers filling up the tables crammed next to each other, steam rising from soup bowls, the chatter of strangers.
Sometime soon we will eat together, we will be close and touch, staying cautious but not with this level of fear and mistrust. The sore arm is everything right now, a sign of progress, and I’m thankful for the human contact that made it possible.