“So You Think You Can Get a Vaccine,” Saturday Night Live’s final skit in February, was a slam dunk. Hosted by Kate McKinnon as Dr. Anthony Faucci, the game show featured contestants vying for a vaccine. The winner was a grandfather who hoped to get the shot right there.
“Oh, no, you have to make an appointment online,” he was told. The judges advised him to find a young person to help him. Somebody who had three days to keep hitting “refresh.”
I can relate.
My husband and I both qualify for the vaccine. We used the state’s limping beast of a website, which crashed. When we did discover open appointments, our fingers weren’t fast enough to nab them.
Next I tried calling the 211 emergency line, though I felt guilty. We’re both tech savvy and have college degrees. Why couldn’t we figure this out?
“Well,” said the lovely woman who answered my 211 call, “I’ll put you on a waiting list for a call back, but we’re using the same website. The same thing happens to us.”
I reminded myself to be patient. As Governor Baker keeps reminding us, more vaccine doses and sites will become available. I sat with my browser window open while I worked, watching my time in the waiting room go from 17 minutes to 198 minutes to 167,000 minutes and then, finally, to a window that said it would be more than a day.
I hit refresh anyway. We live in hope.
“We’re like Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot,” I muttered when my husband asked how it was going.
An hour later, my mom called. She’s 89, lives in senior housing, and just had her second dose of the vaccine in a relatively smooth process, thanks to our local Board of Health, which leads me to wonder why shots weren’t being offered to more people locally. Who wants to drive to a mass vaccination site at Fenway or Gillette Stadium?
“I’m sure it’s a scam,” I said. “That woman’s probably using people’s information to hack their bank accounts.”
“Message her,” my mother insisted.
I did, figuring I could sniff out the scam and warn others.
The woman got back to me instantly and told me to call her. Michelle said she lived in our town and was married to a firefighter. “I’m helping people with appointments because that’s a way of protecting our community,” she said.
Her story, and the warmth in her voice, convinced me to give her my personal information. Two hours later, she called, saying, “Check your email.”
And there it was, my golden ticket: a vaccine appointment in March, at a place I didn’t even know was offering them because it wasn’t posted on the state’s website. A day later, Michelle sent my husband an email saying he had an appointment, too.
“You are the patron saint of vaccines,” I said. “How can I ever thank you?”
“By texting me after you get your shot,” she said, “and letting me know it went well.”
I cried. Out of relief, partly, but mostly from gratitude for vaccine angels like Michelle.
It shouldn’t be this hard to protect ourselves. If my husband and I can’t navigate the online appointment system, what hope to people have without computers, or with jobs that don’t let them sit on the computer for hours on end, of securing appointments?
With the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine added to those by Moderna and Pfeizer, and with the hard work of governors and healthcare workers trying to smooth the vaccine roll out in the coming weeks, I’m trying to live in hope that we can do better than this. We must.