In a recent article the medical chief for Olean General Hospital, Dr. William Mills, noted that, “Vaccine panic is not warranted.”

At best, Dr. Mills is tone deaf; at worst, he is a reflection of a medical system that is failing us at a time of great need.

As a 70-year-old with some comorbidity factors, I was recently added to the groups that were eligible to receive a vaccine. Obviously, I, like many others in my cohort, didn’t ask to be added. But once we were we all felt a strong desire to at least “get in line” for a vaccine.

I would be fine adding my name to a list and getting a call when it was my turn to stand in that line.

But there is no list and no way to get on it. Why didn’t the hospital partner with the county and local pharmacies to create such a list? That would have readily provided a practical way for those with a fairly high risk profile a way to get into that line.

But without a line to stand in it feels like an “each person for themselves” descent into Lord of the Flies. Given the total lack of coordination there is little choice but for each of us individually to call, email, web surf until such time as an appointment is located. That isn’t panic, it is reality.

“This is not like a Black Friday sale where you need to sleep outside of the store to have a chance at getting a new toy,” is what Dr. Mills noted. No, it isn’t.

It is much worse. We wouldn’t be missing out on a new toy but rather the possibility that we might not be able to spend time with our children or grandchildren next year. There is the very real possibility that our children might lose their parents all too soon.

Dr. Mills said: “Luckily 80% of the cases are mild.” That means to me that 20% of the cases are not mild and for folks in the 70+ bracket the risk of death is very real.

Obviously, the stakes are much much higher than a toy at Christmas for many.

I fully understand that “the companies cannot make it fast enough,” but that doesn’t explain why the state and the local health care providers, including Olean General, have not provided a rational, coordinated way to indicate our desire to receive the vaccine when it does become available.

Instead of lecturing us about our panic, Dr. Mills should look to use his resources to provide a concrete solution. While he is at it, let’s hope that he finds some empathy as well.

(Mike Blumenthal lives in Allegany.)

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