COVID: Who’s On First?

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I was startled tonight to hear that “top people” in the lame duck Trump Administration will now get priority vaccinations for COVID-19. These are the same people who sponsor superspreader events, including maskless, massive rallies and 20 planned holiday parties this season for dozens, if not hundreds of people. Masks are suggested but obviously not required, or how could you eat and drink?

Heck, if you follow the news it seems like half of them have already had COVID-19. Not surprising in a toxic work environment where masks have been discouraged. Several of the Trump cronies who got the virus somehow managed to get scarce experimental treatments not available to the general public.

Officials who model irresponsible behavior should not be given preference over hard working citizens who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.

This will be a historic week, when precious vials of vaccine will be distributed nationwide in the hopes of stopping a killer virus in it’s tracks. Already 300,000 Americans have died. That number could easily double or triple before we’re done with it.

We’re on a roll, and it might be weeks before we stop seeing over 3,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations a day. We’re just starting to get over the Thanksgiving surge, with more holidays and behavior that defies government guidelines yet to come.

vials of coronavirus vaccine
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Most of the vaccines we are counting on haven’t even been presented, much less approved, by the FDA. If we’re lucky, we might get a third of the U.S. vaccinated by March. It will be a long time before we can safely discard our masks.

I think that there is general agreement that the health care workers who work directly with or around virus patients should get the first doses.

We hear their stories of crying as they go to and from work due to the stress of seeing multiple people die every day. Going home and not being able to hug their kids for fear of getting them infected. Watching co-workers get infected and even die. Working long hours because there is nobody else to do it. Going back day after day after day because they feel it’s their duty. Nurses, doctors, therapists, housekeepers, food service workers, ambulance staff.

If you work in a unit with COVID patients, you have my thanks and my blessing. I might need your services someday soon.

I’m a retired nurse and I don’t think I could survive what they are going through. Give them the shots. I’ll wait in lockdown in my condo six more months if I have to.

Also in that first tier priority list are nursing home patients and staff. Most nursing homes keep their patients in lockdown, not even allowed to see their families. The staff are most likely the ones who are inadvertently bringing the virus into the facility and spreading it as they go from patient to patient.

It is not known yet whether or not people who get the vaccine can still get and spread the virus, but keeping staff healthy will promote better outcomes for them and the facilities they work in.

nurse and patient
Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

But the residents/patients are also top priority because they are the ones most likely to need scarce hospital beds Some areas are already having to ration who gets intensive care beds. Younger people have a better chance of surviving, so grandma gets put in an outlier bed with the expectation she will probably die. The vaccine might save her from this terrible and lonely end.

There is controversy over who is next in line.

Teachers, ambulance drivers, transportation workers, farmers, meat packers, home health caregivers, policemen, firemen, garbagemen, waiters, grocery store workers, and taxi drivers can all make convincing arguments for why they should get priority for vaccination.

Every one of these categories has suffered multiple COVID deaths. The federal government is apparently still working on priority guidelines, but they will leave the final determination to the states.

Due to lack of funding, this strategy did not work out well in the beginning of the pandemic. If the federal government provides funds for vaccine transportation and administration, the states can follow through with prioritizing their populations based on local conditions.

Which population is at higher risk of getting the virus? Where is the most transmission? Who is more likely to die? Who is more likely to save others? Who is indispensable? Should people or communities that scorned or even prevented adoption of government safety guidelines get lower priority?

State and Federal governments need to have clear public guidelines for priority and exceptions and enforce them. They should determine who the key people are who need to be protected to keep society functioning, like governors, police chiefs, Supreme Court justices, and the Gang of Eight in Congress. I would even add Dr. Fauci to that list. America needs to trust again.

American values seem to place more priority on “me first” or “my family first” to the detriment of the greater good of the community. This might be a natural inclination, especially with the state of societal division, but we should all be on guard for people trying to skip the line.

The rich or well-connected should not be able to buy their way to a higher spot in line. Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, is funding a lot of vaccine research, but I heard him say on television today that he will get the vaccine when it’s his turn. The CEO of vaccine maker Pfizer expressed the same sentiment.

There will reportedly be federal marshalls on the trucks and planes taking the vaccine to its destinations, so we probably don’t have to fear hijacking. I hope they arrange adequate security for the vaccine at the end points. Its scarcity would give it a high value on the black market and we don’t want to lose a single dose.

UPS truck
Photo by Verygoodlord on Unsplash

That brings me back to the Trump Administration. A lot of them had COVID-19 recently, so hopefully they have some protective antibodies. I wish them well, but even if they get the vaccine, they will be out of office before immunity kicks in. I favor giving it to the leaders in the incoming Biden administration so they can concentrate more on saving us and less on social distancing.

Trump family, get in line.

Everyone else, remember to wear your mask, wash your hands, and social distance. We still have to get through a tough winter.

Update 12/14/20: Late last night, President Trump tweeted, “People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.” There was no mention of whether or not the holiday parties will continue.

Read here about a previous mass vaccination in the United States.

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Mary Morrison is an itinerant traveler and super procrastinator who published her first book at age 68. https://amazon.com/author/footloosemary

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Mary Morrison

Mary Morrison

Mary Morrison is an itinerant traveler and super procrastinator who published her first book at age 68. https://amazon.com/author/footloosemary

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