I never envisioned a time would come when we’d all be congratulating each other on having gotten a vaccination. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing on friends’ Facebook pages lately. And I feel encouraged as I see the rising number of friends who say they got their shots.
I haven’t written much about the covid-19 pandemic lately. That’s not because it’s gone away; there just hasn’t been a lot to report, except for what’s already being reported all over the place. But vaccinations are happening, and are definitely worth a post.
The good news is that three different vaccines are now on the market. The bad news is that supply is so limited that there is enough for only a small fraction of everyone who wants one. That problem was exacerbated by ex-President Trump’s mishandling of the crisis and refusal to have the federal government take responsibility for distributing vaccinations. So now, each state has its own system, which means that some states have no system at all. We’ve got this hodgepodge of providers, some through state and local governments, and some through private industry. We’ve got a list of CDC guidelines for prioritizing who gets vaccinated when, but they’re just guidelines. States can and do ignore them.
This means that in one Florida county, a public health official — acting with the governor’s consent — chose to offer the vaccine only to residents in two zip codes in her county. Naturally those were the two wealthiest, whitest zip codes, despite the fact that covid-19 is statistically more deadly to people of color and people in lower income brackets.
Here in Virginia, it means that my 82-year-old mother, whose age should have placed her in one of the earliest groups to be vaccinated, did not get hers in December or early January. Instead, she had to get her name on a dozen different lists, make daily phone calls and check various websites each morning, and have my sisters and I do the same, in order to finally book an appointment after nearly three months. She got her first shot this week. Two of the three vaccines require two shots; her second one will be at the end of the month.
I am relieved that she is getting the vaccine. I am also thrilled for my husband, who at 66 (well, 65 when he first signed up) was technically in a slightly lower priority group than my mom. But she’s in a different jurisdiction. Here in Alexandria, we actually had a more centralized system that was easier to negotiate, and he was able to get his first shot last month and his second one yesterday.
I’m still years away from turning 65, which puts me in a lower-priority group than he is. And I’m now at the bottom of that group. The city recently began giving precedence within each group to people living in certain at-risk neighborhoods. I totally support that decision, even thought it means I’ll have to wait longer. But people who are more at risk from the disease should get priority. And every person that gets vaccinated makes the whole city a little more immune, and brings my turn a tiny bit closer. On the other hand, I registered with the system early, which pushes closer to the front of the line than if I’d only gotten around to registering recently. In other words, it’s nearly impossible to estimate when my turn might come.
Right now, about 9 percent of Virginians (and 8 percent of Alexandrians) are fully vaccinated. The national numbers are similar. Most estimates are now saying that all American adults will be vaccinated by sometime this summer. I wish it were sooner. I really, really want to get vaccinated. But without enough to go around, and with such mismanagement of the situation until recently, I’m just going to have to be patient.