Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Needle Jab, A Pandemic & Privilege


Covid-19 vaccine and syringe on calendar"Covid-19 vaccine and syringe on calendar" by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We remain in the middle of a pandemic.

This tiny virus has killed over 450,000 people in America alone.

Millions of people have lost their jobs.

Many small businesses are closed for good.

New forms of this tiny virus keep showing up.

We now have two vaccines authorized on an emergency basis.

Our supply of these vaccines remain limited.

.So we must ration it.

And that means picking and choosing who should get it first.

Millions of people have been fully vaccinated.

They include those with the $$$ and connections to get the shot.

They're only a tiny percentage of the population.

None of us likes to face needles. I don't. Normally, it is a chore and a dreaded activity. A necessary evil. In fact, many people elect not to roll up their sleeves and get the needle jab. Nor will they allow their children to get vaccines put in their arms. "Vaccines cause other diseases." *They are made with embryonic stem cell lines." I don't trust them because of past medical experimentation of my people." "It may not be safe." "What if I get an allergic reaction?" 

Some of these objections to vaccines are valid and appropriate. Documentation that some vaccines, including non-COVID-19 vaccines, have been sourced and produced using embryonic stem cell lines. This refers to cells derived from fetuses which have been aborted. Such vaccines are morally problematic if you believe that life begins at conception. Objections to vaccines because of fear of allergic reaction, are indeed valid if you get allergic reactions to certain substances. If you are African-American and leery of a COVID-19 vaccine because of a past history of what is known as medical apartheid, this is a valid fear.

Yes, what is known as vaccine hesitancy abounds. Our former President has done much to undermine the credibility of science through his disinformation campaigns and actions against scientists in the public sector. He has done this with most other institutions. As all institutions consist of imperfect people like us, they have contributed to the undermining of their credibility over time. The systemic racism in science, like medical apartheid, has contributed. The use of human remains of aborted babies has hurt science's credibility. Science itself, sadly, has given our former President ammunition in his campaigns to credit science. Still, his habit of burning down the house and circulating lies has helped nothing.

Vaccine hesitancy indeed is alive and well. But, more often than not, many people see the simple act of submitting to a needle jab to be protected from a tiny yet deadly virus, as a privilege. From the beginning, because of widespread incompetence in the former Trump administration and refusal or neglect to treat COVID-19 response as an emergency, vaccines have not been produced, nor the vials or syringes to go with them, nor the qualified vaccinators who could put them the arms of willing recipients. In the U.S., vaccines have remained in short supply over the past year. This has contributed to many millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of American deaths. This damage has been so complete that current President, Joe Biden, and his COVID-19 team, have had to start their COVID-19 response strategy from scratch.

Scarcity increases the value and worth of a product. Normally, in the West and certainly in the U.S., we have fortunately been able to take vaccines for granted. In developing countries, people cannot and to them, vaccines have unfortunately been a privilege when conferred upon them by caring relief workers or volunteers. However, the coronavirus has forced us in the U.S. to, in some ways, experience life like those in developing countries. Even when vaccines have started being produced, the CDC and states that have been receiving these vaccines, have had to triage and prioritize groups via risk and vulnerability, to be first in line to get these shots. 

Last year in late 2020, I remember when the CDC gave emergency authorization to first, Pfizer and then, Moderna, for use in eligible people. I recall how hope and optimism gripped the scientific community and health care workers. Scientists basked in the sense of their accomplishments and health care workers were excitedly talking about seeing a "light at the end of the tunnel" after months of relentless stress. The first people to in line to get the coronavirus vaccine were health care workers, particularly those who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients. And I have to agree that they deserve it.

Next in line have been nursing home residents and staff. People 65 and over were next. For awhile, even last year, some in these priority groups have been able to get vaccinated. However, near the end of the year, most of the vaccine supply ended up running out. This year, our new President and his COVID-19 response team were dismayed to learn what a mess the Trump administration had made of their response to coronavirus. I have been encouraged by reports that, recently, President Joe Biden has ordered enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to cover the entire U.S. population. However, the roll-out and distribution of these COVID-19 vaccines will still take many months and is not projected to be over until around late summer of this year 2021. 

Where does privilege come in? As already noted, when a service or a good is in short supply, its value rises. The more scarce it is, the greater is its value. Multiple reports indicate that wealthy people and those with good social connections have been able to access COVID-19 vaccines for themselves. At the same time, many eligible seniors, those deemed as essential workers, and those with underlying health conditions, have been unable to get vaccinated. At the start of the vaccine rollout, Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Network owner, reportedly got vaccinated. More recent reports tell us that disgraced O.J. Simpson has gotten vaccinated, and posted a "selfie:" of the occasion. 

MSNBC weekend Anchor, Ali Velshi, spoke to this privilege principle recently. He admonished those among his viewers who may have means: "....So if you have the means to get this vaccine, don't....let others go ahead of you who are more exposed....You will get your shot in time."

In other words, as long as this life-saving vaccine remains in short supply and others need it more than us, we ought to wait our turn. As we ought to do in any other area of life.

This is the authoritative, informative page about COVID-19 vaccines on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.  Read article.

This is a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data tracker about the COVID-19 vaccine. Read article.

This is a Health and Human services page, with links to each of the U.S. States and territories with tools for making a vaccine appointment in your area. Read article.

This is an article that addresses the ethics of sourcing and producing vaccines, with a chart. Read article.

This is an authoritative Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page that debunks the idea that vaccines cause autism.

Read article.

This publication details how wealthy, well-connected, and/or powerful individuals have been cheating their way to COVID-19 vaccines before their turns. Read article.

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