OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Almost 34 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with millions more anxiously waiting. Unfortunately for the millions of vulnerable or compromised Americans who are desperate to receive the vaccine that promises some level of protection, or the millions of Americans who require the vaccine in order to return to work, there is apparently a vaccine dose shortage. There’s just not enough of the vaccine to go around just yet.
But… what if there actually is?
What if it isn’t a vaccine dose shortage but a common sense shortage?
Hear me out.
The New York Times just did a really interesting story. I think maybe they didn’t realize what their story was actually going to show people, or else they might not have done the story. Because it’s really a story about how American lives aren’t actually the priority.
You see, once a Covid-19 vaccine vial is opened to administer even one dose, it must then be entirely used within a certain timeframe or else the remaining vaccine in that vial expires and must be discarded entirely. And Hasan Gokal, a doctor in Houston, had a vial of Covid-19 vaccine that had been opened and used. A brand new vial had been punctured to administer a single dose to the last person in line at a vaccination event held in a park outside Houston. The clock on that vial began ticking as soon as it was punctured and the nearly full vial had to be used within 6 hours. There were no more “eligible” people in line to receive the remaining doses in that vial, but Dr. Gokal was determined not to let it go to waste. He offered it to all the first responders and medical staff at the event who either declined the vaccine or had already received it.
Instead of giving up and simply discarding the precious vaccine doses that are in such extremely high demand, he then proactively sought out 10 people who were in need of the vaccine, although they had not technically been deemed “eligible” for that event. People in vulnerable age demographics. People at high risk due to preexisting conditions. He even placed a call to his county public health official in charge of Covid vaccine operations and received the “all clear” to go find 10 people to whom he could administer the remaining viable doses.
According to the article,
“Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.”
Finally, just before the vaccine would expire and have to be thrown away, he gave the last dose to his wife who suffers from a pulmonary disease that affects her breathing.
Dr. Gokal had the common sense not to let those precious vaccine doses go to waste. Understandably, he just couldn’t fathom throwing those doses away when so many millions of vulnerable people desperately needed them. And why? Just because bureaucratic red tape and policy demanded it? The vaccine was still good and there were vulnerable people in need.
But the political entities who apparently get to dictate who lives and who dies have decided that Dr. Gokal’s common sense is criminal.
He was fired from his government job and charged with a crime for stealing 10 doses of the vaccine worth a total of $135.
Well, worth $135 and potentially the lives of the 10 people he chose to vaccinate instead of tossing the completely viable vaccine in the trash.
This is obviously just one anecdote. But if one doctor has been in a situation where there are extra doses of the vaccine in a vial that is about to expire and no patient assigned to received it, how many others have surely been in that situation that we haven’t heard about? Of the almost 500,000 primary care physicians currently practicing in the U.S., what if just 1,000 of them found themselves in a similar situation? And if each of those 1,000 finds themselves with just 10 extra doses of vaccine in an expiring vial as Dr. Gokal did, that’s 10,000 more vulnerable Americans that could have received a dose of the vaccine who were instead passed over and the doses tossed in the trash. And then we’re told there’s a “shortage” of doses.
Because of red tape.
Because of bureaucracy.
Because of quotas and expectations intended to promote “equity.”
It’s not actually the lives that mater.