Pick Up Your Mat And Go

David Todd McCarty

Our current vaccination system feels like a 1st-Century solution to a 21st-Century problem.


I logged into the AtlantiCare site today on a whim and it said there was a vaccination appointment available and by the time I clicked on it, it was gone, like a fart in the wind. 

I keep seeing stories about various groups, churches, and certain tech-savvy individuals who are volunteering to help those in need, get appointments to be vaccinated. The presumption being that this is not an easy endeavor, but rather one that demands a team of people or at least a lucky roll of the die for any hope of being saved from the ravages of a deadly pandemic.

There is a story in the Bible, told in the book of John, about a pool near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, where an angel of the Lord would come and “disturb the waters” and the first person to reach the pool would get healed. It was called Bethesda, but not the one in Maryland, and the sick congregated there in the hopes of being healed.

“In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.”

Jesus approaches a man who is said to have carried an affliction for thirty-eight years, yet had no one to help him to the water.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 

“The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’”

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.”

I don’t have any expectations of getting a vaccine from the Messiah anytime soon, but I do wonder about this idea that those with a team of people to help them get to the magic waters before anyone else are the ones who are saved.

This has the feel of a very 1st-Century solution to was is at least a 20th-Century problem. The vaccine itself is a miracle of modern science, far outpacing any response we’ve ever had to a global pandemic. But our best methods for remaining safe while we wait are 19th-Century ideas about fresh air and masks. The miasma theory is a now obsolete medical theory that held that diseases—such as cholera, chlamydia, or the Black Death—were caused by a miasma (μίασμα, Ancient Greek for "pollution"), a noxious form of "bad air", also known as "night air."

They were wrong about the causes of many of these contagions but they weren’t entirely wrong about fresh air and the efficacy of wearing masks. Maybe we just need a team of people to help us down to the pool, as soon as the angel disturbs the water.

Because of Facebook, we’ve already all seen people who don’t seem particularly deserving of an early dose of the vaccine, get vaccinated. Life isn’t fair. But there are times when it feels like even a random lottery system would be more equitable than what we have.

Maybe I just need to move closer to the pool or find a team of people to help me. In the meantime, I’m staying away from people and hoping my number comes up soon.

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Writer, Director, Photographer, Designer, and Journalist. I am endlessly curious about politics, street food, photography, and garden gnomes.

Cape May Court House, NJ

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