What happened in Seattle was a repeat of what had happened a few weeks earlier, when a freezer in a northern California hospital containing 830 doses of Moderna covid-19 vaccine has malfunctioned and the medical staff decided that the best decision would be to inject each dose to everyone available, regardless of their priority status.
The day after the late night run to get the vaccine, I felt a strange mixture of relief and guilt. I was relieved to be a little safer for the people around me in the community, while also recognizing that my social privilege, my access to technology and my vehicle had given me a major advantage. If an incident like this happens again, which could very well, given the sensitivity of these vaccines, will people online be more people like me: those with connections to healthcare workers, and who can give up everything they do and rush to a hospital?
Stephanie Morain, a medical ethicist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, says that while it is better to use doses than to let them go to waste, there are ways to use them to ensure that vaccine allocation is not do not exacerbate these privilege and access problems.
Some vaccination sites across the country have formal registration systems in place. “Community members can queue up, and distribution is prioritized not by those who know the nurse who is on the job that day, but rather according to formalized criteria,” he says. it. “The latter, to me, is more ethically justifiable.”
While what happened in the late-night race for a vaccine in Seattle was symbolic of many failures in the vaccine rollout, it showed us that when there is a will, there is a way. The doses had to expire and the community had to react. Nurses and other frontline workers have rallied around the call for volunteers to distribute vaccines almost immediately.
Towards the end of the night, as the doses were dwindling, a UW Northwest health care worker said she saw younger people in line giving way to older people. At 3:30 a.m. on January 29, no dose was lost. The circle of protection has widened.
Wudan Yan is a freelance journalist in Seattle.