County mayor’s e-mail causes stink, raises issue of line-cutting for vaccination

Published 1:46 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020

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Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby has taken a lot of heat during the past week over an e-mail sent out by her office inviting commissioners and their families as well as city and county teachers to take advantage of an opportunity to get the coronavirus vaccination early. The excess vaccine was supposedly made available by the Carter County Health Department, and Mayor Woodby said she sent out the e-mail at its direction.
The day the e-mail was sent it drew a lot of interested individuals to the vaccine distribution site at the Great Lakes building. Cars were lined up on Highway 91 in response to the invitation to get the vaccination. Some individuals said they sat in line for two hours to get the vaccine.
Regardless of who is responsible, the e-mail has stirred up a stink and placed the mayor in an embarrassing situation.
The first vaccinations were to go to frontline healthcare workers, including nurses, doctors, EMT workers, firemen, policemen, etc. Next in line were nursing home residents and workers.
As can be expected, there is a demand for the vaccinations, and permission has been granted for some to step in line before others to get the vaccination, including congressmen and senators, White House, and government officials. Some of these same people eschewed wearing masks and attended super-spreader events.
Just as there have been some, who have managed to get special treatment throughout the pandemic, including preferential access to testing and unapproved therapies, early access to coronavirus vaccines is likely to be no different. It could happen in any number of ways, as fudging the definition of “essential workers” or “high-risk” conditions, lobbying by influential industries, physicians caving to pressure to keep their patients happy, and even through outright bribery or theft.
Anything that’s seen as lifesaving, life-preserving, and that’s in short supply creates a demand, and everyone wants to be privileged. Some people will inevitably cut in line if the opportunity presents itself.
Just like a lot of other things for which the federal government should have taken responsibility, there has not been a uniform plan for distributing the vaccine. It has been left to the states to determine how to get the vaccine, where it needs to go, and when the vaccination is to be given and to whom. There needs to be a coordinated plan nationwide.
Regardless of who is responsible for last week’s vaccination mess-up, it should not happen again. It has caused ill-will and stirred up a lot of questions, and made many of us wonder just who is in charge of vaccinations, and will they be given in the order the CDC has requested.
Perhaps, it comes with inexperience in the county mayor’s office or misunderstanding on the part of the Carter County Health Department at directives by the regional health office. We do not know as the health department has remained quiet on the issue.
We were told that in the end there was no extra vaccine, and no vaccinations were given. But, we were also told that some commissioners and others did get the “advertised” extra vaccine.
But, within the next few weeks those people who stepped out of line to get the vaccination will need to get a booster shot. Will they be able to get it?
In the initial months, vaccines will certainly be limited. Demand will outstrip supply. There will be millions of doses available, not billions.
States need to wrestle with questions of fairness and expediency. They need to determine how to balance saving the lives of the most vulnerable against stopping the spread of the virus against the need to keep essential workers — however they are defined — on the job.
Is a county commissioner, a state legislator, or congressman an essential worker? More essential than a grocery store worker, a school teacher, even a sanitation worker, who picks up your garbage each week?
Tough decisions await: Who goes first, second or third?

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