Is the COVID Vaccine Distribution Fair?

Like most Americans, I want to see fairness in our country—in the courts, in hiring, in job pay, in access to affordable housing, in higher education . . . I could go on and on. Injustice is a difficult thing to watch without becoming disillusioned, bitter, and angry. I’m seeing a lot of unfairness with the vaccine rollout.

Let’s start with communities of color and underprivileged neighborhoods. Have they been given access to the vaccine? Every state seems to be handling things differently, and that in itself is another source of unfairness. We all have a friend or two in another state that seem to be having an easier time of things. Should non-residents be allowed priority? If all the states treated it the same way, then it would be fairer.

In some states, teachers are getting priority, but not so in others. Parents want kids back in school, but is it just to ask teachers to work if their state doesn’t feel they are important enough to prioritize? What about front-line workers at the back of the line? Is that fair?

There’s no doubt that the previous administration did an appalling job of handling supply and distribution issues, and several governors have compounded the problem. At the root of this rollout bias is that some people are “cutting the line,” some employers are securing vaccine for their employees over other more vulnerable groups, and then there is just straight-up corruption. We can talk about anti-vaxxers at a later time. We are a long way off from everyone who wants a vaccine being able to get one.

I don’t want to whine about being at the back of the line: I am not quite old enough, not quite sick enough, and not quite important enough. I genuinely do not think my life is any more important than someone else’s, and I don’t want to imply that my personal situation is any more dire or tragic than that of others. But I am frustrated at the unfairness of it all.

I am quite desperate to see my daughter, and vaccine or not, I’m getting on a plane in another month or two, though I know it is not safe for me. It has been a year since I’ve seen her, and I’m dying a little bit every day. She and her sister are all I have left of my late husband, a former F-15 pilot and test pilot who died to keep us all safe. Being a widow doesn’t get me bumped up the line, and it shouldn’t. I only mention it as a way of illustrating that my mental health is breaking down to the point where COVID is better than this. So, I decided to do something about it.

I volunteered for several of the vaccine studies but was not chosen; I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because of my weirdly high blood pressure or some of my other medical issues. I still wanted to do something to fight COVID. Last night I worked my first shift at the state vaccine POD. Five hours of standing in one place was not kind to my knees (trashed from years of competitive running), but I remained cheery and upbeat while checking in others for their vaccine. I was told that I “might” be eligible for one myself after working at least five separate shifts. Maybe. But there’s a problem there too.

I can’t seem to sign up for shifts. I have the app on my phone, and I’m checking it as well as the swapboard on my computer. Others are desperate for the vaccine too and are snatching up shifts at a dizzying pace. I’m not sure how I got the shifts I did. A guy I worked with last night told me people are running programs to take all the shifts, but he expounded on other conspiracy theories as the night wore on, and I tuned him out. I simply cannot deal with yet another level of unfairness. But I will be honest enough to admit that all this is possible for me—the volunteer work and constant checking for shifts—due to my privilege. I have inadvertently participated in a system that is also unfair.

As for last night’s operation, it was well run, and the volunteers were treated quite kindly—even getting dinner. As a vegetarian I’m always grateful and impressed when my diet is acknowledged; the dinner was amazingly good. The vaccine distribution center ran smoothly, and several people receiving the vaccine thanked me and commented on the efficiency. More than one person in their car asked if a fellow passenger could also receive the vaccine. Without an appointment I had to tell them no. I neglected to add that I had not had one myself. The vaccine distribution is a party for which I have not yet been invited. The question remains: will I get COVID before I do?