Pima County, Arizona issued a new system and phone number for COVID-19 vaccination registration. According to the county health department, staff would be available over the weekend and on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, January 18, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My 83 year-old mother dialed the registration line. “Your call is important to us and will be answered in 9 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes. Press ‘1’ if you like to continue. If you continue, we’ll play really crappy music and hope you’ll eventually beat the crap out of your phone. Press ‘2’ to be disconnected right away. Or do nothing and be disconnected regardless.”

My mother asked of the likelihood of receiving the vaccination prior to the 2024 Presidential Election. “Almost 90%,” I calmly stated. Following up, “However, you are more likely to get hit by a meteorite than receiving the vaccine within the next 60 days.” The Christian Science Monitor reported just that, that some unlucky dude got whacked by a meteor in 2016. To be clear though, a professor at Tulane University calculated the odds of getting killed by a meteorite at about 1 in 250,000. That’s better than death by airplane crash (1 in 30,000) or tornado (1 in 60,000). Sorry, I digress.

The reality is that most US citizens will have to wait months before getting access to the COVID vaccine. In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a list of priority groups of who should get vaccination priority, starting with health care workers, residents and staff of nursing homes. Then the government did what any self-respecting agency with no plan does, they deferred [i.e., punted] to the states claiming, “We have a better idea. We’ll deliver this shit, you guys figure out how to prioritize, set up vaccination points, and get ‘er’ dun’. If that fails, we have fluorescent lights and bleach as backup.” As you might suspect, the pace of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout was from ideal. In fact it can be likened to a Yugo racing a Corvette. (Yugo being the vaccine and COVID being the Corvette.)

The US set a goal of vaccinating 20 million people in December 2020. In reality, as January 7 rolled upon us, only 5.3 million received injections. And only about 17 million doses were sent to states. The slow pace was government dysfunction at its finest—specifically unfulfilled support from the federal government to state agencies and local healthcare providers tasked with distributing the vaccine. 

To reach safe levels of immunity in the US by May would require providing 1.8 million doses every single day after January 15. Not happening. Funding allocated to assist vaccine distribution did occur because America’s superhero (da’ man, da’ Imperial Orange One) played golf, aborted a veto threat and fought the ‘fake’ movement of the week fake media, fake election, fake virus, fake Russia hoax, fake whatever. 

My mother shook her head with consternation when informed that there were 64 jurisdictions in the US responsible for vaccine distribution. Each one had their own plan. Initial vaccine doses were allocated based on estimates of how many high-priority vaccine recipients are in each jurisdiction. Unfortunately, some received fewer doses while others received more. When issues occurred, they didn’t know who in the federal government to call. Some speculate the 800 number wasn’t either funded or the call center in India wasn’t operational.

I told my mother that unless one is a rich elite, you are waiting in ‘Naraka.’ “What’s that?” she asked. Narake is the Buddhism term for purgatory, sort like sitting on toilet for several minutes only to realize there’s no toilet paper. Buddhism’s form of Purgatory differs from Christianity in that beings are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment or punishment and the length of a being’s stay in a Naraka is not eternal. As Sarah Zhang phrased it, the next 6 months will be vaccine purgatory. It will be strange and confusing. The elite will get vaccinated. The rest of us have to wait.

Until then, wear the best mask you can, sanitize and stay indoors.