If you are offered a COVID shot, take it
The focus on cheaters and scammers by the vaccine police isn't helping
Last week a friend was shopping in a downtown drugstore. Someone in the pharmacy called out to him.
“Would you like a COVID shot?” they asked. “We have extras.”
We now pause for a moment of outrage from the vaccine police. Our friend is nowhere near old enough to qualify. And he doesn’t have an essential job. Nor did they check on his identity before offering.
So let’s hear it — you know, terrible tales of scammers, cheats and crooks jumping the line. They are stealing vaccines and crowding out the elderly, people of color and essential workers. It’s a terrible crime and we should check every single dose and person to confirm their name, ID, qualifications and moral compass.
To which I have a suggestion: Can everyone just calm the vaux down?
Our friend declined the shot. He’d read the scammer stories, seen the public outrage and felt like it wouldn’t be right.
Which is too bad.
If someone offers you a vaccine, take it.
Because this entire narrative of line jumpers and cheats is built on a false premise. The idea that non-qualified vaccine shoppers are pushing aside elderly, at-risk people. Or they are jumping the line over the poor and disadvantaged.
And let’s be clear, if someone is blatantly pushing their way into the vaccine line — like those two moronic women who attempted to dress up like grandmothers to get a shot — by all means throw the book at them. That’s disgraceful.
But most of the people I have encountered who have gotten the shot the way my wife and I did. They got on a web site — ours is the now disgraced One Medical — they went to the “book an appointment” section and they hit refresh over and over. (We, by the way, are both over 65.)
If there is one thing these people have in common it is computer literacy. The guy who cuts my hair has a college-age daughter. She got on the city’s My Turn, hammered the refresh button and had an appointment in a couple of hours.
Now, he qualified because of his age and his job. But what if he didn’t? What if he managed to get an appointment and showed up? What should be done?
Give him a shot.
And what if a site tells you they have finished all their appointments and have vaccine left over? They ask if you’d like a shot. What should you do?
Take the shot.
Because two things would happen. Both are for the general good.
First, after getting vaccinated they are one more person who will not get Coronavirus.
And second, that will take them out of the pool of people who are trying to get the shot. You could make a case that they are actually clearing up a spot.
OK, I admit I have fallen for the old “newsletter scam.” You sign up and then it turns out you have to buy a subscription. Not so here. It’s a free newsletter. Although we are considering lowering the price.
As for the idea that the wealthy and well-connected are stealing all the shots, data from San Francisco’s vaccine tracker doesn’t support that. As the Chronicle pointed out on Monday, the high-end Marina neighborhood has fewer of its population vaccinated than economically-troubled Bayview-Hunters Point.
You can read the rest of the stats if you’d like. Asian residents, who make up 34.6 of the population, have the highest vaccination rate, 32 percent. White residents are only at 30 percent although they make up 42 percent of the city’s population. Far from being shut out, people over 65 —17 percent of the populace — have received 48 percent of vaccinations.
From here it looks like the real problem isn’t scammers stealing all the doses. It is a byzantine, mind-bending system you have to navigate to get an appointment.
That’s where the city could help. Supervisor Matt Haney’s idea of a mobile vaccine site in the Tenderloin would make a difference. Centers where non-internet connected people could come in and sit down with computer-savvy people to walk through the process would help.
And then, once an appointment was made, you’re going to tell say we have to sit down, cross-check the ID, age and employment record to make sure they qualify?
Nope. Just give them a shot.
Because the goal is to get as many shots in as many arms as possible. Every shot decreases the pool of those endangered. Don’t get caught up in a morality play.
Sharing a newsletter is one of those special moments in a reader’s life. You read it, you like it and you share it. (In this case you can skip the first two and just go right to the share. It’s all about the clicks.) :)
To be honest, I thought I was a little reluctant to say this. You may be surprised to hear that I have been wrong, from time to time, and maybe this was one of those cases.
And then I saw this story in Tuesday's Chronicle. After some long, predictable rants about how the cheaters are violating the honor system and scamming everyone, we get to Dr. Charles Binkley, director of bioethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
Binkley says the unsayable.
“You’re always going to have bad players who are going to try to game the system, jump in line,” he said. “We learned that in kindergarten.”
And then he added, as I made raise-the-roof gestures, “So to create a system to keep them out strikes me as wasting a lot of resources and energy.”
His point is, quit worrying about who is getting the shot and direct full attention to those who are not.
OK, so somebody unqualified got an appointment. Or, there’s extra vaccine and the provider offers it to a random person. There’s only one logical thing to do.
Give them a shot.
And for those who can’t seem to get through the system, give them some help. Get them an appointment.
And then give them a shot.
It is that simple. The only thing that is going to get this virus under control is getting as many vaccinations in as many arms as possible.
The vaccine police are only holding that up.
Contact C.W. Nevius at email@example.com. Suggestions and compliments welcome. Criticism not so much. Twitter: @cwnevius