We’ve all learned a painful lesson during this horrible pandemic: Vaccines aren’t what matter; vaccinations matter.
In other words, vaccines can’t protect against the highly contagious coronavirus unless they’re actually administered to people. To achieve herd immunity, we’ll have to vaccinate most people.
That huge undertaking got a real boost — it was tempting to say shot in the arm — with the announcement earlier this week that a community vaccination center has opened in Fargo. Soon, people will go to one central location to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The center occupies the former Gordmans store at 5100 14th Ave. S. in Fargo, and will house the vaccination campaigns for Fargo Cass Public Health, Sanford Health and Essentia Health.
It’s easy to see the convenience and efficiencies that can be realized by placing all of the major vaccination programs under one roof. And the spacious quarters — 55,000 square feet — will allow plenty of room to maintain safe distances.
So far, so good.
But this crucial effort missed a step by not offering a central vaccination hotline for people to call for information. Understandably, for reasons of expediency, the public and private health providers want people to go online for information.
That’s certainly convenient — for the providers, whom we acknowledge have a huge, labor-intensive undertaking on their hands. For the private health systems, at least, clinics will be notifying their patients when their turn has come for a vaccination and to set up appointments.
But many people will inevitably have questions that only a local vaccine source can answer.
As a reader recently pointed out, however, the lack of a vaccination center hotline does not serve those who lack access to online information. Those people tend to be the elderly or poor who are among the most vulnerable to the virus.
FirstLink, the information and referral service, might seem a logical choice to help. But they have a lot on their plate, including staffing suicide crisis lines, and in any case aren’t equipped with the necessary information.
Really the best they can do is to refer someone to the general number for Fargo Cass Public Health: 701-241-1360. Or people can call their health system, but public and private clinics aren’t staffed to handle a deluge of calls from people asking when they can get vaccinated.
So we appeal to the community vaccination center partners to join together to offer a phone number for those who can’t go online for information. Doing so would serve a vulnerable segment of the community.
After all, before the internet came along, the phone was an invaluable tool for obtaining information. And still is.
Vaccinations, not the mere existence of vaccines, are what will end this pandemic. We should be working together to eliminate as many obstacles as we can to ensure that as many people as possible can get these lifesaving shots.