Vaccine equity is a policy of fairness that ensures the most vulnerable get it first.
We have seen how the virus preys on the elderly and those with underlying conditions. These groups must be protected first. There are no arguments against this. Our county has picked up the pace on vaccinations and is doing tens of thousands a week. National numbers are rising rapidly as well. That’s great news.
The flip side is that every single day, doses are getting tossed across the nation because there aren’t eligible takers and the vials become unusable a few hours from first use.
That breaks my heart.
US has 330M people, many too young or unable to get the vaccine due to medical conditions. Assume 20% cannot get it. That's not unreasonable, and probably conservative, considering there are about more than 70M under 17s. That leaves 270M who need it. WaPo says 54% will get it. An additional 30-ish% is on the fence and the rest are anti-vaxers who will not get it under any circumstance.
This means millions who need it and want it are ready to do so. Queuing by priority makes total sense. Wasting does not!
North Carolina is not imposing geographical boundaries since the Feds are paying for the vaccine. At the other end of the spectrum, several states are going to be stuck at 70 or 75+ for the foreseeable future. Take a guess at which states are tossing vaccines.
Have you read about Dr. Hasan Gokal of Houston?
He was fired for driving around vaccinating a handful of vulnerable people with doses which would have gone to waste at the end of the day. He gave the last of the spare doses to his wife who has a lung condition. He was fired because he didn’t toss the extra doses, even as Dr. Fauci says if 70-80% are vaccinated by summer then we can return to a level of normalcy by fall. Thankfully, a judge cleared Dr. Gokal of wrongdoing.
Granted that it is hard for public health officials - who have never encountered a challenge of this magnitude - to get this right at the first shot and easy for me to be an armchair-critic.
I pray that we will get to the goal line by being sensible with equity. All we need is for the extra doses to be pumped into arms, not chucked in the bin. Why is that difficult?!
Image from the Boston Globe