March 09, 2021
Last night’s news reported they were staging a pop-up vaccination site today at the Senior Center. This was a drive through event for the first 100 eligible arrivals. As the story continued it mentioned a local Pharmacist also promised an additional 50 shots for those wanting to come inside and listen to a spiel about the vaccine and what to expect. I had placed my name on a waiting list two weeks ago but have not heard anything back. When I called, I was told it generally takes at least a month. I decided it could not hurt to try and get the vaccine, but I was not hopeful. They were only administered from 8-10 am and the site was 20 miles away. I woke up early, so I decided to give it a try. I grabbed my fish bait thinking worst case scenario I could get in a few hours fishing this morning. Then I took off for the Senior Center.
I arrived at the site a little before eight and was surprised to see that while the lot was full, there were only about 30 cars in line. I guess some preferred the in-person experience rather than drive-through. I had brought my paper anticipating a long wait. When I opened the paper, the front-page story was about the growing number of Seniors. Arkansas’ 50-plus population was expected to grow from 36% in 2018 to 40% by 2050. We have already grown from 494,000 to 559,000 between 2016 and 2021. The gist of the article touted Seniors as the next market economy. According to Herb Sanderson of the Arkansas AARP, Fort Smith has everything seniors are looking for: mild weather, favorable tax base, local attractions, affordable housing, public transportation, parks, and available retirement communities. When I retired it had what I wanted as well, Melissa.
As I waited in my car to get my shot, I was reminded how age does not improve your manners. As the line grew behind me there were several cars who purposefully took a different entrance, snaked through the parking lot, and then pulled into the second lane in front of about ten cars that had been waiting patiently (including me). I was not surprised when these were expensive vehicles. I have heard stories of similar behavior as people have been able to jump the line to get vaccinated ahead of the essential workers who are at higher risk. Apparently, wealth means you do not need to wait.
Thoughts: I was surprised that more people did not show up to receive the vaccine. I was vaccinated and completed my mandatory 15-minute wait by 8:45 am. By the time I pulled out of the parking lot there were less than 10 cars in line and no new ones arriving. Maybe they had already administered the available shots, but when I went to the pop-up, I expected long lines and delays. While the Senior Center sounded like a good vaccination site, it was in an area that required a vehicle to access. This emphasizes the difficulty with vaccination across the country. Many sites are in locations that are hard for the poor to access. Washington DC is vaccinating by zip code with the vaccination sites in the zip code area to target high risk populations. Like most things, if you do not purposefully plan to be equitable, you will fail to be so. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.