The race for a vaccine has become a lottery. The lucky ones win. In San Francisco, columnist Nick Hoppe became one of the lucky ones. How? Sometimes, he says, you just get lucky.
Life isn’t fair. If there was ever any doubt, consider the fact that I got my COVID-19 vaccine late last month, and so did my wife.
“YOU GOT THE VACCINE!” cried one of my friends when I told him the good news. “THAT’S NOT RIGHT!”
He was genuinely upset, and rightly so. There are tens of thousands of people here in Northern California who should have received the vaccine before we did. The rollout, as everyone knows, has been an absolute mess. And we’re the prime examples.
“It’s not my fault,” I sheepishly replied. “We just got lucky.”
“My 98-year-old mother is still waiting to get her vaccine!” he continued. “This is ridiculous!”
Yes, it is. Getting an appointment for a vaccine is all the rage these days. Sons and daughters are desperately calling every day for their elderly parents, some with underlying conditions. Teachers and essential workers are scrambling to find an avenue to get their shot.
And two perfectly healthy individuals, whose only claim to legitimacy is that they’re 65 or older, get their first shot with a confirmed appointment for the second shot three weeks later. How fair is that?
Not very. This begs the question, of course, as to whether we should have given up our cherished appointments and stepped aside to let more deserving individuals take the shot that we had lucked into.
Those are the questions that can keep you up at night. And I wouldn’t have to answer it if our government had started out with an organized system for this rollout that insured the most needy would get their shots first.
I know health departments tried, but it was a dismal failure. Initially, it was that First Responders and nursing home patients would have priority. I wasn’t about to pull a George Costanza and knock one of them out of the way in order to get my shot. I was willing to wait my turn.
But then they opened it up to everyone age 65 or older. I was on it like a hog on slop. Just like everyone else my age, I looked for a way to snag an appointment. I managed to get one, and so did my wife. We were giddy with excitement.
Then news of dire shortages changed things up again. Vaccines would only be offered to those 75 and older in my county. I feel like I’m 75, but that doesn’t count. I was out, and so was my wife. But then they said they’d honor existing appointments.
Guilt, guilt, guilt. What’s a boy to do?
Should we give up our appointments and let two older citizens take our place? Or should we march in at our appointed time and flex our lucky 65-year-old arms, damn the unlucky old 75-and-uppers?
Before we could make that agonizing decision, fate intervened. I was coming home on the freeway at 6:00, and the phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, probably a robo call. Since I don’t get a lot of calls these days, I decided to answer it. I was in the mood to hear about credit card fraud.
“Hi, this is Kaiser Permanente,” said the nice lady. “I see you have an appointment for the COVID vaccine.”
Here we go, I thought. They’re going to cancel me. Decision made. Oh, well. It’s the right thing to do. I’ll take the news with pride.
“If you and your wife can get to our medical office in 15 minutes, we can give you the vaccine now. We have a limited supply that has to be used by the end of the day or we’ll have to throw it out.”
Huh? I almost made a U-turn on the freeway, but fortunately waited for the next exit. I called my wife and told her to meet me there. She was elated. I’m surprised we didn’t collide somewhere along the way.
I entered the vaccine center at Kaiser, which I now call the Happiest Place on Earth, leaving Disneyland in the dust. The woman checked me in and within minutes I had the Pfizer vaccine in my arm.
My wife came in moments later, and they took care of her as well. They were closing within the hour, and they didn’t want to waste any unused vaccine. It was a remarkable stroke of luck that I answered the call and could get there in time.
Guilt-free because of the circumstances, we walked out after our 15-minute waiting period, and high-fived our good fortune. Of course the question remains— without this unexpected turn of events, would we have kept our appointment?
Probably. But this feels much better.
Nick Hoppe’s latest book is, “Some Books Aren’t Meant To Be Sold: A Collection of Humor Columns.”