Several shoulders sagged in our older population this weekend.

The same day Grand Traverse County announced the opening of a mass vaccination site at the Northwestern Michigan College Hagerty Center, all 1,500 slots filled.

There are 23,000 country residents qualified to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we don’t doubt if the announcement left a few a little confused and disappointed.

What our health department and state explicitly said they wanted to avoid, is happening.

Across Michigan there are fragmented programs, differing by county, and frenzied scrabbles for appointments. Line jumpers. Confusion.

Our attempt at mass vaccination is yielding mass frustration.

While we expected a certain amount of bureaucratic spillage, especially in the beginning weeks — and can appreciate the difficulty of this inaugural endeavor — our state and national leaders need to step up.

We are 70 days into this effort, and our already overtaxed health departments are struggling mightily. They need help.

They continuously ask for patience, and we get that. But we must also ask if our leaders understand that they contribute to the problem by not stabilizing the system and the messaging around it?

The appointment panic, and subsequent system crashes, aren’t because people don’t want to wait their turn in line — we believe that the majority of the disconnect is because people don’t know where the line is. Or thinking they signed up for an appointment, because they used an appointment scheduler. But it was a waitlist. And when they call to check, they are told they may be deleted because the phone number is for non-internet users only.

Mistrust in government doesn’t help matters, and is underscored by the mixed and changing messages.

For now, we need a stronger, unified working plan that places those in need at the front of the line — not those who are simply more tech savvy or in the know. That’s the priority.

And we are patient. We can be flexible. And we understand accidents happen. We are imperfect humans, all of us. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll not ask the questions on our readers’ minds, like why were we (again) so unprepared for this? How much have we invested and how? Where is the accountability? And lastly, how come thousands of people can sign up for graduations and concerts but not a potentially lifesaving vaccine?

Each week those questions are left to linger, frustration over the distribution disarray will continue to fester.

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