One month ago as the first vaccines against Covid-19 disease were going through final the approval process, I published a post asking who should get vaccines first. There was general agreement that vaccines should first go where they would do the most good — medical personnel and first responders and those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities followed by elderly persons with preexisting conditions and essential workers who interact with the public.
Now that vaccinations are just starting to be administered, it is interesting to see that the group we thought should be first is in fact first in line except that a number of well-known others are also being vaccinated. The theory is that people who are on the fence about, or who do not want, a vaccine for various reasons will change their minds when they see someone they admire or respect get vaccinated. I don’t buy it.
Many probably recall telling our parents when we were kids that the reason we did something stupid was because someone else did the same thing. Their response would often be to the effect of: “If so and so jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Most learned long ago the fallacy of a “monkey see, monkey do” approach to life.
These days, people seem to be becoming impervious to facts and observations that conflict with their preconceived views. Some skeptics will doubt that the shots people get on TV are actually a vaccine. Moreover, vaccination demonstrations do nothing to allay concerns about potential long-term effects that might not become evident for weeks or months.
Another point to consider is that most people won’t be eligible for a vaccine for months. Demonstrations during vaccine rollouts may have little impact on decisions people make months from now.
Still, seeing a famous actor, business magnate, or star athlete get vaccinated might persuade a few to get vaccinated who otherwise wouldn’t. So there is some value in these demonstrations. But you shouldn’t have to alter the priority to get any benefits form vaccinating famous people. Surely there are plenty of famous actors, CEOs, athletes, and other influential role models who qualify for priority by virtue of age or significant preexisting conditions without cutting in line.
There should be very few exceptions. For example for national security and continuity of government purposes, the president (elect), vice president (elect), and top congressional leaders, should get vaccinated immediately. Vaccines should also be administered to respond to outbreaks on military bases and ships where quarantining is impractical.
Politicians, in general, should be last, especially those who have downplayed the pandemic and public health measures like wearing masks, social distancing and restrictions on businesses that cause spread. The weak political response in the U.S. contributed to more Americans dyeing of Covid-19 (currently about 320,0000) in nine months than all of the American combat deaths (about 291,000) in almost four years of fighting in WWII. Leaders who helped get us in this mess shouldn’t be first in line for the lifeboats on the Titanic.
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Having as many people vaccinated as possible is the best way to bring Covid-19 under control and return life to a semblance of the way it was before the virus. In the United States, some African Americans and Republicans are for very different reasons more likely to resist getting vaccinated. To the extent that role models who are important to these groups and the population generally may increase vaccine use, there should be many such influential figures who would qualify to be among the first to receive a vaccine without receiving preferential treatment to leapfrog over ordinary people.