The Race For The Vaccine

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I got a surprise call from my Aunt Camille on a Thursday afternoon.
She told me there was a little pharmacy on Hicksville Road that was administering the COVID vaccine to walk-ins today. If you were eligible, all you had to do was show up, fill out the required New York State Department of Health consent form and get the vaccine.

“My next-door neighbor tipped me off,” she said excitedly as if secretly providing insider stock trading information. “I went down to get the forms and they told me to call back and schedule an appointment. Instead of calling, I grabbed your uncle and we went back with the completed paperwork to get scheduled. They asked us if we wanted to get the shots right away, so we did.”

I told her I had already had both vaccine shots, but my wife had been looking to get scheduled.
“You better tell her to get moving,” she said, “I’m not sure how long this is going to last.”

As a Healthcare IT Professional for Northwell, I guess I’m considered an essential worker. I’m certainly not saving lives like the real heroes during this pandemic. I just make sure they can get paid for all the work they do.
When I became eligible, I quickly scheduled an appointment through the employee portal to get my first Pfizer vaccine dose. A few weeks later, I received the required second dose and got my official vaccination card.

My arm didn’t fall off and I didn’t grow a third ear. My post-vaccine symptoms included general soreness and nothing else. It was no different for me than my annual flu shot.
Many people have been struggling with getting an appointment through the New York State website. Unless you were willing to travel Upstate or to the Javits Center, you must time your inquiry precisely right. Some of my friends were finally able to make appointments in Stony Brook or Jones Beach after many failed attempts.

Back in the ‘80s, tickets to a hot concert or a playoff game required spending hours on the phone. You would dial the number, get a busy signal, hang up, and dial again. That seems to be the case with the New York State website. You have to keep “refreshing.” I’ve heard tales of people trying for hours until something “opens up.”
At first, my wife seemed ambivalent about this insider information, wondering if it was even worth the trip. My aunt had been there just before lunch and now it was late in the afternoon.

She called my next-door neighbor Jackie and they decided to join forces and take a quick run to see what was up. Once outside, they ran into Jackie’s neighbor Debbie, who joined the posse in search of the elusive vaccine.
Hi-Ho Silver, Away!

Arriving at the pharmacy, they questioned if it was the right place. The storefront was located in a tiny, nondescript strip mall, next to a Dunkin Donuts. If they weren’t explicitly looking for it, they would have gone right past it.
Nothing in the window indicated the vaccine was available inside. There was no blinking neon sign or wacky waving inflatable arm flailing Tubeman. Not even a handwritten note taped on the front window.

Behind the tiny counter, a pharmacist was preparing someone to receive the vaccine. When he spotted the posse, he told them to fill out the paperwork. They had only four doses left and could accommodate the three of them (and the guy that walked in behind them). They filled out the paperwork and provided him with their insurance information. Bing, bang, boom, they got their first doses of the Moderna vaccine and were told to come back in a few weeks to get the second dose.

Sometimes, you’re just in the right place at the right time.
Or, you have to be on the receiving end of a hot tip…

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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