My people, the people of Seattle, if we are to be good at anything, it is the ability to obediently and patiently wait in line.
Once again the coronavirus shows a different side.
It turns out that vaccine jumping has become a silent sport here, a parkour for the pandemic.
“I’m a volunteer at a vaccination clinic in Seattle, and I think a third to half of the line are younger people under 40 or 50, and they’re not health workers,” one reader wrote about a week before asking, because of not to be named in her low position.
This clinic had become known as a place where “extra doses” could be collected as an inspection, although it has since tightened its rules, she passed on.
KUOW found the same thing the other day after speaking to people at another vaccination clinic in Seattle.
“Half of the people interviewed by this reporter were ineligible,” the radio reported in a story titled, “People are jumping on the vaccine line in Washington state because hundreds of thousands cannot get appointments.”
That story goes that there is a loophole which is that the entire vaccine rollout is being done on the honor system.
Combine that with shortage of gunfire and it was probably inevitable that we would get an adequate dose of vaccine favor. It is either in its most glaring form, like those hospitals that give big donors VIP slots. Or in the more routine, systemic manner, where professionals familiar with computers and the system relentlessly take advantage of its benefits.
The bottom line is it’s starting to get a little raw out there. After the city and a grocery workers union joined forces to get shots for 400 union members, not all felt charitable (although the workers allegedly otherwise met the state’s eligibility requirements).
“Tens of thousands of us 65 and over spend hours every fucking day online trying to find a shot, like something from the Hunger Games, but a union is given special courtesy priority?” A reader wrote to me. “How does this differ from hospitals that distribute vaccines to donors and others with the right connections?”
It’s different because grocers are on the front lines of the virus to start with. Unions are usually not made up of rich and powerful.
But the reader has a point: could this vaccination system be any more patchwork, coincidence, or confusion? It practically asks to be smeared with sideline business, sometimes out of desperation to just get it up and running.
It is not only every state that has developed its own unique “who goes first” program, but also many counties and often every vaccination center. Example: This week, King County decided that there was so little vaccine out there that patients at the mass vaccination sites in Auburn and Kent are limited to ages 75 and older, not the federally required 65 and older. Confused patients were turned away.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Indian Health Board announced that it was lowering its vaccination restrictions on people over 50, including those outside the Native American community.
KUOW quoted a public health doctor who said the complications in the system are well-intentioned but create confusion, which in turn can create more opportunities for vaccine preference. Simply reversing the age would have worked better, he said.
“Trying to create justice has created greater inequality,” he said.
The whole system also seems to have more stress. Although the state said earlier last week that it was expected to receive 16% more vaccines, some hospitals were forced to temporarily close their vaccination clinics because they ran out of vaccines by the end of the week.
“The Washington State Department of Health announced on Friday, January 29th, that the State of Washington had received less than 30 percent of the requested allocation from vaccine manufacturers,” Overlake Medical Center told its vaccine patients on Monday. “Like many other hospitals, we are rescheduling your appointment.”
This is awkward just days after Overlake’s invite-only donation program was revealed.
The silver lining for all this jostling is this: every push is theoretically a good push. In a collective sense, we need 175 million bodies vaccinated nationwide to achieve herd immunity – or about 3.5 million here in Washington state, according to COVID modeler Youyang Gu. The virus does not differentiate between the line jumper and the virtuous rule pursuer.
But we are human. The vaccine shortage has created fertile soil for the line jumpers, the corner cutters – and the straight-up Hucksters among us.
“Write their names on a plaque, send them a thank you note, and give them tickets to a Mariners game,” said an outraged patron after Providence Hospital in Everett offered special shot access to wealthy VIPs. “But don’t put them on the front lines in a life or death situation.”
We learn that if we didn’t already know, there is no vaccine against shamelessness.
[email protected]; Danny Westneat takes a look at the news, people and politics of the Puget Sound area.