• OAK Street Initiative

Vaccines save lives, but rollout is not fast enough to save all my patients

Two weeks ago I lost a patient. I don’t know why we say “lost”. She died. She died from a rapid and severe COVID-19 infection. She was 78 and was the “mayor” of her block. Loved by her neighbors, by her family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.


Mrs. H. was independent, lived alone, healthy except for well treated high blood pressure and “the sugar”- diet controlled diabetes. She was Hispanic and spoke mainly Spanish during my brief interview with her, she was too short of breath to answer too many questions.


She didn’t have an appointment to get her COVID vaccine yet, but shamefully the 22 year old that Philadelphia hired to manage our life saving vaccine program already had his vaccine, instead of Mrs. H. Diverting vaccines to the young, white well off and healthy has consequences.


I held Mrs. H.’s hand while she died in front of me. She didn’t want “el tubo”, she understood clearly what was happening, she was ready to “go with God” while we watched and listened to her daughter cry out “Mama”.


We need to stop the bureaucracy and waste and get COVID-19 vaccines in the arms of our older adults so that we can save their lives.


COVID vaccines were developed faster than any vaccine in history, but now they are not being

manufactured and distributed fast enough to save my most vulnerable patients’ lives. And they are not getting to where they are most needed.

Philadelphia has four major medical schools. I believe, if asked, we all would respond to a massive vaccination plan. It’s time to think big and get it done.


HealthCareWorkers can’t do it alone. Volunteer today. Volunteer at a vaccine site. Volunteer to help an older adult friend or family member navigate vaccine registration websites. And speak up in protest about vaccine disparities- our older adults deserve vaccines now.


Want to volunteer to make a difference in the fight against COVID? Black Doctors Consortium is a great place to start. Or let me know the name of another organization doing great work to help Pennsylvania's access COVID vaccines.



Kevin M. Baumlin, MD, FACEP, is the Chair of Emergency Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, and Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine for the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Baumlin is Co-Founder of OAK Street Initiative.



Opinions expressed in this article do not represent those of the University of Pennsylvania Health System or the Perelman School of Medicine.

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