If You're Thinking About Jumping the Line to Get a COVID Vaccination, Read This First

Claire Splan

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Every day it seems there are new stories popping up about people (usually wealthy or at least well off, usually white) gaming the system in whatever way they can manage to get their COVID vaccination before they were due to.

It started with the politicians. We all got to see members of Congress declare themselves essential workers (insert derisive snort here) and be among the very first to get the freshly approved vaccine before almost anyone else. The argument was that by doing so, they were modeling good pandemic behavior and confirming to their constituents that the vaccine was safe. Sounds good but it was galling to see House representatives and Senators that had refused to wear masks and actually mocked those who did claim those first shots even before frontline healthcare workers who had watched so many of their colleagues die from COVID after treating patients with coronavirus.

Now it appears we are being treated to articles about wealthy members of the public lying, cheating and, if we're to be honest, committing outright fraud in order to get vaccinated ahead of those in the top tiers (that is, healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff, those age 75 and above, and more recently, those age 65 and above).

For example, there was this lovely story of Canadians Rodney Baker and his wife, Ekaterina Baker, who chartered a flight to a remote area in the Yukon so they could jump the line to get vaccinations that were intended for elders of the indigenous community there. They lied and claimed to be visiting motel workers in order to claim the vaccinations. So far, they aren't facing any threat of jail time for this act of fraud, just fines--hardly a deterrent for those with enough money.

Meanwhile, there are people everywhere who are categorized as high-risk who have been unable to get vaccinated. My mother is one of them. She's 87 and in a nursing home. Although I signed the consent form for her to be vaccinated, neither she nor any of the other residents or staff at her facility have gotten their shots.

So, I take it rather personally when I hear about people who feel that their privilege entitles them to get a potentially life-saving vaccine before anyone else. And if the law won't take action to deter such behavior, perhaps we can only rely on shaming. So here goes:

  • If you consider yourself a Christian, don't even think about jumping the line. This doesn't come close to meeting the WWJD test. Jesus wouldn't jump the line. He'd go to the end of the line. Follow his lead and wait your turn.
  • Ditto if you consider yourself a practicing Jew, Muslim, Buddhist--you name it. There is no serious theology that would approve of you putting yourself ahead of others when it comes to something that could save another person's life.
  • If you consider yourself pro-life, get a grip. Just for now, switch your focus from controlling what women do with their uteruses and instead focus on how many might die because you selfishly claim a shot that is meant for someone in greater need. If you do jump the line, you're not pro-life at all. You're just anti-abortion--and possibly responsible for who knows how many deaths yourself.
  • If you think you are a better judge of who should get their shot first than public health officials are, show me your degrees and describe your years of relevant study. Explain what makes you so important and essential that you should get a life-saving vaccine ahead of, say, an ER nurse or a teacher or a 75-year-old veteran. There are people who have devoted their entire careers to the field of public health and the study of contagious diseases and pandemics. Take it on faith that they know more than you. A lot more than you.

In fact, you don't know shit. This doesn't require explaining, because it's self-explanatory and deep down you know it's true.

We all want this pandemic to be over so that we can return to some semblance of normalcy and reconstruct our lives. But we've already lost almost 440,000 people to this disease and it is now expected that the death count will reach 600,000 by the time it is under control. And the simple truth is that you are not more important than any single one of those 600,000.

So take a seat. Quit whining. Wear a mask. And wait your damn turn.

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Writer/editor. Author of "California Fruit & Vegetable Gardening" and "California Month-by-Month Gardening."

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