The Vaccine Hunger Games
The Vaccine Hunger Games
In the year of our Lord, 2020, the Earth was stricken with a great plague called “The Corona Virus.” Originating in Wuhan, China during the latter half of 2019, it quickly spread virulently throughout the world.
We remember when we first heard the words “Corona Virus.” We were in San Diego visiting, during March of 2020.The nightly news featured one of the Princess line’s ships, idling at sea off San Francisco Harbor. The port had refused them landing privileges, because an on-board virus had stricken several passengers, some fatally. At the time, certain national politicians didn’t want the ship to dock because “it would make their infection numbers look bad.” All I could think of was the “ship of fools” incident during WW II. A boat load if Jewish refugees had been denied entrance to the United States, for some specious reason and returned to Europe. Most, later died at the hands of the Nazis.
Eventually, the Princess ship was allowed to dock. All passengers were quarantined, at various military bases, for two weeks to determine their lack of viral infection. Still, we thought nothing major was amiss. We had been through various Norval, Sarrs and other epidemics in the past. You just had to take precautions and rock and roll. This monster proved to be different.
National decisions, to ban all inbound traffic from China, were an attempt to “shut off” the spread of infections. No one thought that it was coming in from Europe. Friends of ours had been at Orly Airport in Paris then. They reported that all around them was a virtual “sea of Chinese” headed to the U.S and safety. Predictably, New York City became the center of viral pandemic. Thousands sickened and died. The hospitals were over flowing with the sick. There was a massive shortage of protective gear, for medical personnel, beds for the sick and “mechanical ventilators” to help the sickened breathe.
The ensuing months are a litany of the fallen and a society’s attempt to cope with the worst contagious virus since the Spanish Flu of a hundred years before. Everyone managed as best they could. Finally, in late 2020, scientists in several laboratories, after a herculean effort at fast racking and extensive testing, announced that they had developed a vaccine to combat the virus.
In late December, it was announced that medical personnel and residents of nursing homes, the most fatally stricken sub group, would be vaccinated first. That made sense. Everyone was heartened at the coming possibilities. In January, most states shifted gears and announced that anyone “over 65” was eligible to receive the vaccine.
In Florida, the Governor, simply announced that the administration of the vaccine program was to be “handled by the individual counties,” most of whom said “huh” and were not prepared or had the funds to handle the task.
The first few days of the virus vaccine administration were awful. People, in their eighties, stood out over-night in the cold, waiting for hours for a “first come” vaccination. When the depth of that disaster was realized, officials decided to let the Publix Grocery chain handle most of the vaccinations. This made sense to the insiders. Local news sources allege that heirs to the Chain had just given one million dollars to the certain political campaigns and over $100,000 Florida state campaign coffers. Money talks now, as always.
To secure an appointment, all you had to do was call in to the designated number and ask for an appointment, after answering several questions and offering proof of insurance and residency. That sounded simple enough. That is, until you tried it, during the first several days. Several hundred thousand senior citizens called in during the first few minutes, crashing the phone system. The same chaos reigned for days and then weeks. Many of us called in and waited for hours before the computerized system cut you off. An established web site crashed for the same reason. Desperate seniors, some with urgent medical conditions, cried with frustration after “dialing for lives” repeatedly. Callers were using their computers and two and three cell phones to call in, creating an even bigger log jam. It was becoming what the cynical referred to as the “Vaccine Hunger Games,”Noting the similarity of plots with the wildly popular novel by Suzanne Collins. Desperate seniors, afraid for their lives, were competing with many thousands of other seniors, fighting for their safety. The atmosphere was one similar to the “last life boat” frenzy on a sinking ship.
My wife Mary, the indefatigable phone caller, had struck out on nine separate occasions, fruitlessly wasting hours at a time, before managing to get a positive hit on a Walgreen’s website in Sebring, a small city in Central Florida, about 100 miles north of us. We considered ourselves fortunate. We made the trip, stayed overnight and received our first dose of the Covid-19 Vaccine. Other wags started labeling these arduous treks “Vaccine vacations.” One friend drove all of the way up to St. Augustine, some seven hours away, for his first dose. His Northern based son had secured the appt. and flown to Florida to take his dad there, for a coveted spot in the vaccine line.
The “Vaccine Hunger Games” are still in progress locally. The winners have a new lease on life. The losers face the risk of the Corona Virus until they get a spot in the vaccine line. I can only imagine the chaos that will ensue when the working populations has their turn at getting a vaccine. They don’t have the time to sit on the phone or at computer stations for hours, waiting for their chance in the Games. They have jobs to go to and families to raise and care for.
This all could have been handled better with some rational planning for a few months. I always thought that the Military were the prime candidates to handle the program. Everyone trusts them. They have the organization, training and skills necessary to carry out such a monumental undertaking, in a fair and equitable manner. The current Governor of Ohio apparently agrees. Last December, he asked his national guard units to send their medical personnel into the hospitals for training, to learn how to vaccinate and care for large numbers of people. I think they got Euchred at the national level, while the “Impeachment Games’ took up the nation’s attention for a crucial few weeks. Even FEMA got ignored. That makes no sense.
New vaccines are coming on line, from Eli Lilly and soon, Johnson and Johnson. Perhaps they will ease the shortage, of available vaccines, and calm down the frenzy that created the “Vaccine Hunger Games.” And hopefully, we will learn from this chaotic mess how to do things better during future emergencies.
Joseph Xavier Martin