"It would be much better to move quickly and end up vaccinating some lower-priority people than to let vaccines sit around while states try to micromanage this process. Faster administration would save lives right now, which means we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
--Alex Azar, secretary,
U.S. Health and Human Services
Some Americans will readily take the covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is ready, for they are ready now. Some Americans will take the shot, warily perhaps, because the whole effort was unfortunately named Operation Warp Speed, and they worry that warp speed might be a little too fast. (A great doctor we know said something similar six months ago.)
Some Americans will take the vaccine as part of their communal duty, just as they get a yearly flu shot. Some Americans will roll up their sleeves because they trust that half the Ph.D.s on the planet know more than they do.
Some Americans won't get the vaccine because they don't believe in the science. Or government. Or all those pointy-headed college graduates. (Voltaire once dismissed those who swore that witchcraft was ruining their lives: "It is unquestionable that certain words and ceremonies will effectually destroy a flock of sheep, if administered with a sufficient portion of arsenic.")
And some Americans won't get the vaccine because they cannot, for health or religious reasons.
The state of Arkansas, and all the other states of the Union, have plans to administer vaccines as the shots become available. We were encouraged early on that Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his people promised the rules for the rollout would be fluid.
As of now, the doses of vaccine are limited. But the papers report that some doses are sitting in cold storage. A story in Sunday's Democrat-Gazette noted: "Overall, Arkansas has distributed 36.9 percent of the stock it has received."
A national story in the same day's paper said hospitals and clinics have been surprised by the number of workers who don't want the vaccine. Or perhaps they just don't want it now, and would rather wait until a larger portion of the population has taken it with no ill effects. That's fine. But the doses shouldn't have to sit around and wait for them to decide. Those doses should be working. Now.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, announced last week that he would switch to what he called the "Southwest Airlines model" for vaccine allocation, referring to the airline's open seating policy: "We're no longer going to be waiting for all the members of a particular priority group to be completed," he said, "before we move on to begin the next group in line."
If you have flown on a Southwest flight, you know the company doesn't give you a seat number. It gives you a boarding pass--either A or B. First the gate agent calls those with an A pass. After so much time, those with B passes are allowed. If you had an A and didn't board on time, you can get on with those with a B. As it turns out, this is a much faster way to fill all the seats and take off.
Such a plan for the vaccine roll-out sounds more than reasonable. There could be even some sort of deadline for certain groups to get the shot, and then the vaccine could be opened up to others. There is no reason for this to go so slow.
Sunday's newspaper was full of news about the pandemic and vaccine. One of the local stories, written by Lara Farrar, said the state's prison system has been giving covid-19 vaccinations to its staff already. But one group in prison has been left out. Namely prisoners.
It is a myth that prisons are completely secure. Take it from newspaper types who often go through the clinking jail doors to interview subjects or to get public records. Not only do staff members and reporters and health-care workers and plumbers and locksmiths and electricians and, yes, released prisoners go in and out every day, but so do contractors delivering supplies, mail and food.
To let these petri dishes of prisons continue to thrive as super-spreaders does the community no good. Even if you're of the opinion that prisoners don't deserve vaccines (we'd change your thinking about that, if we could) then a body should still be concerned about the community outside.
Governor, let's get those incarcerated on a priority list, too. We not only have our souls to think about, but our physical health.