Like many people, I spend a part of each day in search of a vaccination appointment — so far, unsuccessfully.

Over 65 and with an autoimmune disease, I thought I might stand a chance at vaccination among the earlier groups. Among the realities that the pandemic has laid bare are the deficiencies in the U.S. public health system, which at times appears almost non-existent.

Some have argued that the private sector could better organize and execute a mass vaccination campaign on the scale that is necessary to include everyone in the country who wishes to be vaccinated. And indeed, companies such as CVS and Walgreens have been entrusted to do just that.

Having been tipped off that a certain one of these pharmacies had appointments available, I went online to see if I would be among the lucky. I discovered that I had to establish an online account to make an appointment, and agree to receive emails (you know what that means!).

Filling in my information, I was required to verify my identity by typing in a code sent to my cell phone. That prompted a message saying that my phone number did not correspond to the one the pharmacy had on file and I would need to speak to a service representative. After one and a half hours listening to their recorded message, the line went silent, though was not cut off.

After 1 hour and 53 minutes, I gave up. If the private sector is going to be entrusted with this crucial task — from which it will no doubt profit handsomely — it needs to start acting like it is providing a service to the public. Not gleaning contact information so we are bombarded with advertising. Not wasting our time by subjecting us to onerous, time-consuming procedures in order to even find out if a slot is available.

If these companies do not revamp and reorient their approach to the vaccination campaign, they risk becoming another example of how far we are from the refrain. We’re all in this together.

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