As a registered nurse and healthcare professional for more than 30 years, I would like to state that vaccines save lives. Whether for smallpox, polio, measles, mumps or rubella, these inoculations help folks stay healthy and safe. As William Foege stated, “Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health.”
When the COVID-19 vaccine was still in the early stages of testing, my husband and I discussed at length the importance of getting one of those vaccines when we became eligible. As folks with underlying medical conditions, we realized the importance of staying safe and getting our hands on a vaccine as soon as we were eligible. We had some serious qualms in the beginning about how quickly the vaccine appeared on the market, but we realized that with technology and advances in medicine, new vaccines were viable and necessary, especially as the pandemic has shown little sign of receding.
Vaccination programs are slow and fraught with issues, to which many can attest. The www.NY.gov website regularly crashes or shows no availability for local providers. Drug store chains offer vaccines for those who are older than 65 and limited availability has been frustrating. Some healthcare and frontline workers are still awaiting vaccination, while others sit and watch from the sidelines “for side effects” or to evaluate how long the immunization will last. The hotline has offered relief to some, while others are frustrated by a system that seems doomed to failure.
This week, I noted a story on a page that I follow about someone who had taken their elderly parent in for a vaccine at a local pharmacy. The author of the post stated that both she and her husband were able to receive a vaccine because it was the end of the day and the pharmacy was either going to have to waste the rest of the doses or offer what remained to those in the store. Some readers of the post were angry at this practice, mainly because they had attempted to get a vaccine to no avail. Others mentioned that the roll-out plan was flawed and they were frustrated with the system. They expect more from our government programs, and to be honest, they are not wrong.
I find no fault in the pharmacy’s decision to offer a dose of the vaccine to those in the store. If anyone out there has a prescription with a pharmacy chain in the area, one knows that many times, the pharmacy department has insufficient staffing and lines are long to pick up prescriptions. Automated messages are the outcome, where these messages replace live staff members. Someone mentioned that the pharmacies should call those at high risk, and I wondered how short-handed pharmacies would even know who was at risk and who was not. I also was convinced that the sooner we get to 75 percent of the population immunized, regardless of who gets a vaccine and who does not, it would be that much sooner that we could acquire herd immunity. I am of the mind that vaccines, which are a precious commodity, should not be wasted. It is better to give to someone than to put the dose in the trash. I have overseen enough vaccination programs in the past to understand this truth.
My husband watched a black-and-white film last week about the smallpox vaccine and its distribution. He was amazed that in a time with less technology, there was no tripping over feet to get the vaccine to the public. It seemed that most folks were vaccinated in a short time and he asked why something could not be employed in a similar fashion for the coronavirus vaccine. I do not have an answer but thought that if the federal or state government had asked those who run immunization programs in clinical settings for their input, perhaps the process would have gone smoother. The federal government has been blamed for failure to get enough vaccine out to the public, but there have been cases of wasted vaccine that has many people understandably and rightly upset.
For those who are trying to get an appointment, do not give up hope. The hotline phone number is 1-833-697-4829. Perseverance is key, so if at first you do not meet with success, hang up and try again. I wish you all success, and I hope that soon, we will all be able to find a dose and end this pandemic, once and for all.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.