Vaccine loopholes unfairly aid the wealthy

With the COVID-19 vaccine finally available, many people are eager to get their first dose. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set recommendation guidelines for distribution, specific plans were left up to individual states. In several states, this means people have found loopholes and jumped the line to get their shot. 

As the United States approaches one year of lockdown in March, people are desperate to get back to some resemblance of normal life. Generally, people are tired of being stuck at home and are wanting to be able to see friends and family again. The vaccine has provided hope and people will do anything to get it.

The Los Angeles Times reported celebrities have been overwhelming medical offices with calls asking how they could skip the line and get the vaccine sooner. Some offered to donate thousands of dollars to vaccine research and testing in hopes of receiving the shot sooner than their state’s distribution plan.

While this approach has been unsuccessful, loopholes in distribution plans have been found and taken advantage of. In order for the vaccine to be effective, distribution schedules need to be followed as they first target vulnerable populations who are most in need of vaccination. 

These vulnerable groups include frontline health care workers, people above the age of 65, employees in long-term care facilities, as well as adults with underlying health conditions.

In an effort to stay on track with the set distribution schedules, a better method of verification needs to be put in place. There have been people who have gotten their vaccine by claiming they belong to a vulnerable group or a group that has been chosen. 

However, upon arriving at the vaccine site and not being required to prove their eligibility, they have received the vaccine ahead of others still in need.

Famous SoulCycle instructor Stacey Griffith was able to cut others in the line with a loophole.

Griffith received various criticisms last week after she posted about her vaccine appointment on Instagram.

She was able to apply for an appointment in January when New York opened appointments for teachers. She was approved later in the month and received her first dose. 

While Griffith does not work for the U.S. Department of Education, she was able to get an appointment because she technically teaches spin classes, as reported by The New York Times.

The fact that it was so easy for her to get the vaccine while so many are still fighting to get theirs is disheartening. Though there was a clear lack of judgment on Griffith’s part, she succeeded in getting the vaccine before so many others in greater need.

This belies an underlying problem in the distribution process.

There should be more verification of eligibility for the vaccine, at least while phases are still slowly rolling out. 

Griffith told a reporter from The New York Times she had brought a recent pay stub to the interview from SoulCycle, which made it clear she did not work for the Department of Education, and thus very loosely fit the criteria for the current phase. 

However, upon arriving at the vaccine site she said no one asked to see any verification. 

In the same article, reporter Ginia Bellafante presented further issues with Griffith’s ability to get the vaccine. As Griffith got her vaccine, thousands of teachers’ appointments were canceled due to dose shortages. 

Griffith later posted an apology on her Instagram, stating she made a terrible error in judgment. 

This should not be happening, not while thousands of teachers and essential workers are being pushed to the back of the line. Not while People of Color are once again being trampled on and overlooked by white people and the health care system. 

At the beginning of his term, President Joe Biden made it clear he wanted racial health care equity to be a main focus of his COVID-19 plan. However, gathering accurate race data from vaccination sites has proven difficult. Given specific vaccine distribution is the responsibility of the states, there is no set way for individual state governments to report race and ethnicity data.

In Washington D.C., George Jones, head of nonprofit agency Bread for the City, noticed as soon as their medical clinic received vaccine doses to administer, they were overwhelmed with new patients, the majority of whom were white. He noted to The New York Times the clinic usually disproportionately served African American citizens. 

Certain verification measures need to be put in place so this does not occur in the future. It is not fair that People of Color continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Many people with privilege, be it from money, status or race, wrongfully believe they are entitled to receive the vaccine before those with greater need.