WATERTOWN — There’s a lot of talk about how divided we are as a society.
It’s true that many issues prove overly contentious. We seem split virtually in equal halves on numerous topics.
But we’re much more alike than we want to admit. One trait we share is our propensity for finding problems we can pin on others.
The latest blame-game topic is vaccinations for the novel coronavirus. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was rolled out nearly two weeks ago, and Moderna made its vaccine available last week.
After such a long period during which we’ve been besieged by grim news regarding the death and illnesses caused by COVID-19, seeing vaccines being administered is wonderful. There is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to this pandemic, which should be a source of joy for everyone.
Vaccines often take years to make accessible to members of the public. The coronavirus vaccines, however, took less than a year to develop. This is an extraordinary accomplishment for those in the field of medical research, and it will eventually reduce the fear we’ve all experienced for nine months.
But many people are turning this medical triumph into an opportunity to castigate others. This detracts from a landmark moment in world history and unnecessarily puts others on the defensive.
With such a limited supply of vaccinations at this stage, the primary issue is how we should prioritize any list of those who receive them first. It’s sensible to put people who are most vulnerable to the debilitating effects of COVID-19 at the top. Until an adequate supply becomes available, rationing vaccinations for individuals with increased risks (senior citizens, for example) is our best option.
Given their essential role in tending to the well-being of others, health care workers must be first in line for vaccines as well. They come into contact with people who are infected with the coronavirus every day, so they need this protection.
Naturally, some Americans have enough influence to get in on the first round of vaccinations. And many are already hurling darts at them for “cutting in line.”
Those accused of needlessly skipping ahead include government officials, celebrities and wealthy individuals. They may not have any underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable. But they have the proper resources and know the right people to get what they want.
Sure, this isn’t appropriate. If they adhere to all the safety protocols, they should be fine until these vaccines become more widely available. Tisk tisk.
But some people are losing their heads over what’s going on, and this isn’t necessary.
I agree that some people must wait their turn. It’s not the major problem that some individuals are trying to create, however, and many of the accusations lobbed are pointless. It should be our goal to ensure that everyone is vaccinated, so I’m not overly concerned about those who find ways to do so at this stage.
It’s true that members of some demographic groups have a greater chance of remaining asymptomatic if they are infected (children and young adults come to mind). They’re also less likely to develop serious side effects if they become ill.
But this isn’t a certainty with every member of these demographic groups. No one knows precisely how they’ll react to the coronavirus until they become infected, and it could be perilous for them.
So there is a risk of horrendous illness or death for anyone who catches the virus. This means that all of us should be vaccinated, and I can’t really blame people for taking advantage of an opportunity to do so now.
If we truly care about the well-being of others, seeing them receive the vaccination shouldn’t make us go crazy. And this goes for people who expressed doubts about the health ramifications of the virus. If we screamed at them to wear masks and practice social distancing so they would stay safe, we should want them to be protected no matter what political views they hold.
Public health authorities should stick to the list of people who have a priority for vaccinations, and others need to respect this process. But we have more important things to worry about than conducting trials on social media to condemn those who obtain the protection they deserve in the early going.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.