Chasing the vaccine

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The past year has been a difficult one for all of us, in so many ways. The pandemic has wreaked havoc in our lives, with so many people getting sick and dying, or losing their livelihood. The fortunate among us have been able to live our lives at home while we sheltered in place but at the cost of isolation and loneliness. When the vaccine started shipping from its Michigan facility in mid-December, it was with a promise that someday soon, we would be able to visit our elderly relatives and friends and simply grasp onto each other with the acknowledgement that we somehow made our way through the pain and devastation.

When I became eligible for a vaccine due to comorbidities — and I check the box for several according to state guidelines — I was so excited that there was a way out of the isolation that I have experienced over the past year. I spent holidays on my own which was difficult enough, but what I really missed were the everyday moments of sitting in my favorite diner while I watched the city walk past from my window table (and sadly, that particular diner did not survive the pandemic), and the ordinary encounters with people on the street and in public places.

Getting a vaccine appointment became the challenge of my life. Securing the appointment was more challenging than getting tickets to Hamilton a few years ago. This was about my life (although it could be argued that theater is also about life.) After I sorted out my mother’s vaccine for her, I went into overdrive trying to find an appointment slot for myself.  I secured an appointment with the hospital where I have been treated for my comorbidities (and what an ugly word that is).

My first vaccine appointment was secured and documented in the hospital’s My Chart application. What a relief! I lived under a cloud every day of getting sick and dying and worrying about who would take care of my cats. I pulled up the appointment notice every day from the online website to make sure it was still there and performed a daily countdown until I could get vaccinated. And then it was gone. Just like that, the appointment disappeared from My Chart’s list of upcoming visits.

I was devastated to have had so much hope and then to be left with nothing. I started the really frustrating process of searching for appointments at the myriad vaccination sites in New York. I literally stayed up all night refreshing websites. I called the vaccination hotline numbers over and over again. There was nothing.

I found my way to a Facebook page dedicated to helping New Yorkers get appointments. There are people on that site who are true angels who have called on behalf of others who may be challenged with navigating through the online morass of city, state and hospital system websites. One woman who does not know me helped me secure a vaccination appointment at a facility for next month, which I was eventually after an entire night of refreshing the state vaccination website able to move up.

We have all been through a near-death experience. We either caught the virus and survived, or have friends and family who are no longer here or lived with the fear every day that we could get infected and die. The vaccine is the ticket out of all this, but it remains elusive for so many. But among all the devastation, there are angels among us that have helped us survive the horrible year. They include all the healthcare and frontline workers, the scientists who worked around the clock to bring us the vaccine, and the generous souls who are helping people sign up for vaccines.

It has been a traumatic year. A year ago, I was a cynical New Yorker who was probably too obsessed with getting a ticket to the hottest Broadway show. Today, I am humbled by the spirit of community I have observed emerge from the pursuit to secure a vaccine appointment. And if there was ever a time to believe in angels it is now. There are truly angels among us.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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