If you thought waiting in a long line to renew our license at the DMV makes us impatient and irritable, we shudder to imagine how angry and tense the next few months may become as vulnerable populations - and those just hoping to reclaim some normalcy in
If you thought waiting in a long line to renew our license at the DMV makes us impatient and irritable, we shudder to imagine how angry and tense the next few months may become as vulnerable populations – and those just hoping to reclaim some normalcy in their daily lives – await their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
We have been critical of the prior presidential administration on numerous occasions throughout the past four years for a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency and a complete lack of perspective. We are now fully recognizing the consequences of those loathsome qualities, which fully coalesced into a lethal combination of indifference and incompetency that turned simple mask wearing into a senseless political debate, allowed the virus to surge uncontrollably, and has contributed to an astronomical death toll that continues to rise.
And now, even as a new administration has taken charge and is seeking to address the problem with a gusto that would have been greatly beneficial over a year ago, the implications of having a federal government devoid of checks, balances or public scrutiny wielding power in the midst of a global pandemic is rearing its head in another grave manner.
Against all odds, we have viable vaccines to prevent the spread of this illness – and yet we cannot produce or distribute that vaccine in numbers significant enough to actually halt the progression of the disease in a timely manner. States, including our own, are scratching their heads and wondering why they’re receiving half or less than half of the doses they were told they’d be receiving, resulting in the closing or postponing of vaccination sites that should be working nonstop to inoculate as many people as possible each day.
Not even the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide an answer on exactly how many doses of vaccine is available nationwide, though it hardly seems fair to blame her – which would be akin to scolding a restaurant’s evening manager who just clocked in for not knowing how many scrambled eggs were served at breakfast that morning.
It is important to remember that this issue is not really about logistics – we have professionals in this state and across the country who are more than capable of setting up vaccination centers and getting people inoculated. Rather, this problem stems from a complete lack of federal leadership. It has become glaringly apparent that, while the previous administration indeed made a truly historic push to get a vaccine developed, there was no actual plan for administering that vaccine once it was accomplished. It is now up to President Biden and his team, in accordance with individual state governors, to pick up the pieces and coordinate what should have been ready to be implemented months ago.
This, of course, puts Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee in a very precarious position – especially as his most recent appearance in newspaper headlines prior to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s nomination as Commerce Secretary was that he was unhappy with his lack of power to implement policies that were important to him and how Raimondo was freezing him out.
He may come to regret the level of responsibility he wished for, as he will now feel the full emotional weight of a populace that is scared and increasingly frustrated. His insistence that teachers and school staff should be prioritized for vaccinations – while we have no doubt came from the best of intentions – may do nothing more at this moment in time than alienate other groups who rightfully think they should be prioritized, and further muddy the water of the vaccine rollout here in Rhode Island.
The fact remains that frontline health care workers and the elderly – those who are astronomically more at risk of developing a fatal reaction to COVID-19 – should be the top priorities, full stop. There can be a healthy debate about who gets the next spots in line behind them, but that discussion should be held with the full knowledge that it is purely hypothetical before we even get enough doses to inoculate our most at-risk people.
We can only plead for Rhode Islanders to exercise more patience, understanding all too well how difficult that is becoming as we have officially eclipsed the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in the country. Pushing and shoving and yelling at one another won’t get your license renewed any faster, and it won’t get you a vaccine, either.