While hypocritical politicians, the media, and health officials urged people to stay home, mask up, and even skip celebrating holidays with family members to “save grandma” from a virus that is especially fatal to the elderly, the narrative changed once a vaccine, which was hailed by many on the left and right as a beacon of hope, was produced.
Instead of prioritizing vaccinating those who are the most vulnerable to dying if they contract the virus, many state governments have told older populations to have patience while they distribute and administer the vaccine to frontline workers, nursing home residents, inmates, and even some teachers and police officers.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that people aged 65 and older account for 8 in 10 Wuhan virus deaths, the federal agency suggested giving the vaccine to those on the front lines and in long-term care facilities first. The CDC later recommends that vaccine doses be allocated for those 75 and older at the same time as “about 30 million frontline essential workers,” a large group of people that the New York Times estimates make up “nearly 70 percent of the American work force.”
The effects of this prioritization are already emerging around the U.S. Just last week, some politicians and their staffers vaulted to the front of the line to receive their first dose of the vaccine. Among them was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is just 31 years old. Despite receiving criticism from her colleagues and constituents for taking the dose, the young representative was unapologetic about the experience, posting a video of herself receiving the vaccine and offering to answer questions about it.
Inmates and prison workers in certain states, such as New York, are also already getting preferential treatment in receiving the vaccine before the elderly. Even prisoners in Guantanamo Bay will be receiving the vaccine before some states have even expanded their distribution beyond those in long-term care facilities.
Update: Southcom says that the Covid-19 vaccines bound for Guantanamo this month will be administered on a voluntary basis. Both the prison staff and the wartime detainees can decline.
— Carol Rosenberg (@carolrosenberg) January 4, 2021
Poor planning by some states and their governors has also unexpectedly granted some who are not due for the vaccine special opportunities to receive it, after health care providers were left with extra doses of the vaccine, which has a short shelf life and would be discarded if not administered quickly. From Washington, D.C., to California, excess unused vaccines have forced those giving the vaccinations to choose between administering a dose to someone who is not at the front of the COVID-19 line or throwing it away.
Politicians such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York have also contributed to this choice crisis by denying New York City’s request to vaccinate those 75 and older after severe underuse of their vaccine supply. Cuomo has threatened to increase penalties on health care providers who disregard the state’s COVID-19 vaccine prioritization schedule, which includes vaccinating drug addicts before senior citizens, and also those hospitals that don’t use their vaccine supply before it expires.
NY Gov Cuomo denied NYC’s request to vaccinate people who are 75 and older, despite the fact the City has only used 25% of its Covid vaccine supply pic.twitter.com/41qEqvIUUr
— Eli Klein (@TheEliKlein) January 4, 2021
While many politicians, agencies, and states have failed to implement vaccine rollout plans that help the elderly obtain the vaccine quickly, others such as Texas and Florida side-stepped some of the CDC’s recommendations to ensure that those who are the most vulnerable are protected.
Despite media backlash since the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has taken the lead in these efforts, clearly stating that vaccinating older people is necessary and the best way to tackle the pandemic.
“If you’re 74 years old in the state of Florida, we’ve made the decision that we want you to get vaccinated,” DeSantis said. “You are eligible and you are a priority, and we’re going to do all we can working with our health care partners to make sure the vaccine’s getting out to you. If you’re a 74-year-old in most states in this country, you have no shot at a vaccine right now; you are not eligible under most of those states’ guidelines to even get vaccinated.”