How Do Vaccines Reach People Who Need Them Most?

The Line for MilkPower and privilege serves itself first. So a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines can bring forth an ugly dimension of humanity. Sharp elbows come out as some people try to put themselves first. But in other situations, we see a sharp contrast. We see people reaching out to help others who need vaccines urgently.

The question remains. How quickly will vaccines reach people who need them most?

A 14-Year Old Vaccine Angel

Hastily built systems for dispensing vaccines are messy. To get an appointment requires computer connections and savvy for working the system. But the people who most need vaccines often have very little of those assets.

So people like 14-year-old Benjamin Kagan step up to help. At midnight, he’s sitting in front of his computer in Chicago, ready to grab appointments for people with a desperate need for vaccines who have been unable to get them. Lisa Lorentzen is a 70-year-old heart bypass patient whom he helped.  She told the Washington Post:

“He’s one amazing young man. I’m probably going to see him on a poster running for president someday, because he cares so much about people.”

He has a group of volunteers – The Chicago Vaccine Angels – who have helped hundreds of people get the vaccines they need. He sees a real issue with vaccine equity:

“The problem with the equity piece is that if you don’t have four computers open and crazy-fast WiFi speed and you’re not technologically savvy … you’re going to lose the appointments.”

Discounting People with Obesity and Other Risks

CDC guidance is quite clear. People with the greatest risks should go first. That means front-line healthcare workers, people living in long-term care facilities, older adults, and people with pre-existing conditions. But implementation is down to states and local health departments.

So you have situations like Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont knocking people with high-risk medical conditions out of line for a vaccine. In fact, many states have not opened up vaccine distribution to people with high medical risks, says the Kaiser Family Foundation. What’s more, we see hateful attitudes surface when people realize that obesity is one of the biggest risks (after age) for bad outcomes with COVID-19.

We note that HR had more than a chat with the individual above who said he resents people with obesity. His employer suspended him. He apologized, saying, “I truly regret my words.”

The Me-First Ethic

The me-first ethic will not get us through this pandemic with our humanity intact. For the good of our future, we’re betting on folks like Benjamin the vaccine angel. Not Blake the resentful TV guy.

Click here for more about the Chicago Vaccine Angels and here for more about prioritizing people with medical needs.

The Line for Milk, painting by Edgar Chahine / WikiArt

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February 27, 2021