The Vaccine Lottery

By Susan Estrich

January 23, 2021 5 min read

On Tuesday afternoon, while working at my desk, two things happened almost at once.

My law school roommate texted me that she and her husband had just signed up online to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minutes later, my daughter called to say she had been on Twitter and found out that vaccines were being released that had been reserved for health care workers and first responders, many of whom declined the opportunity to be protected.

My daughter was online as we talked. She snagged three appointments at a fire station, for me; for her dad; and for Rosie, our nanny of 30 years, who lives with me and takes care of the dogs now.

Rosie is the one who needs it. She was told a year ago that she had stage 4 gastric cancer, which has an asterisk instead of a number for the five-year survival rate. At the end of a year, I insisted on second opinions, which gave us hope: The doctor at UCLA said he thought it was more likely that it was stage 3, and maybe in remission, and almost surely operable, although that might not be the best course given the hospital time and recovery. So, this week, Rosie went back to chemo, without a vaccine to protect her and surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

When she told the doctors and nurses about the appointment "her boss" (we are more like sisters) made, they told her she needs to wait seven days from the end of the round to get a vaccine. They are hoping to receive more vaccines in February. I hope so, too. But in the meantime, my daughter hopped online again today and apologized that the best she could do was a week from Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

Of course, no one who was treating Rosie advised her to go to a website that has hardly been publicized but was created with the cooperation of the county. On this one, her boss has no connections. But I have kids who grew up with computers.

One of the newest members of the Los Angeles City Council, a progressive woman for whom my daughter volunteered during the election cycle, said the magic words in a Twitter chain.

Carbon Health. If you live in California and are over 65, the provider has appointments available.

I had gone to lacounty.gov and gotten nowhere.

All you need is an internet-savvy kid who is on the right Twitter feeds. My son, who is the software genius in the family, didn't even have to build a bot.

I am beyond grateful. Having barely left my house in almost a year because I have been so worried about Rosie, the idea that we might be protected in three and a half weeks astounds me. I was prepared for May. Or June.

But it is completely nuts.

The Hispanic community in Los Angeles is being crushed by COVID. Hispanics live in multigenerational homes, with essential workers everywhere; the younger generation brings the virus home to parents and grandparents, who make up most of the deaths here.

I had this vision that there would be mobile units going up and down the streets in the hardest-hit areas, where not every house has Wi-Fi or computers, much less nonessential workers who can find their way to a website that, until days ago, was only publicized on Twitter.

My daughter explained what she had done. It was easy.

Check a box. Give your name, email and date of birth.

On Thursday, the website was closed to new appointments, with a notice that Carbon was working through all the existing requests. But on Friday, the site was up again, and Dodger Stadium had times available.

A friend went to Magic Mountain today, a one-hour drive, and waited in his car for two hours. Who cares? He got the vaccine. Unfortunately, his wife, who is only 64 and a half, isn't eligible.

I am blessed. I am grateful. It is the first time in my life that I am happy to be my age. On Monday, my son will drive me to a fire station in East LA, where the COVID rates are about 4 times what they are in my neighborhood. I know the area because it is home to USC's medical complex, including LAC-USC Medical Center, which serves the poor people in the community. But I don't expect we will be seeing too many folks from that neighborhood. And that really is nuts.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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