COVID Pandemic: In Whose Hands Does Our Future Lie?

Long lines as people wait to receive a vaccination at a hospital in Edinburg, Texas. [Photo: Jason Garza/The Texas Tribune]

A vaccine seems like the best solution available to slow down and limit the COVID pandemic. Despite the limits placed on science in this for-profit system, medical researchers were able to create vaccines quickly. But then came the next stage — producing enough vaccine, distributing it, and organizing millions of vaccinations! Here we’ve had a systemic failure: vaccine production and deliveries have been less than required, and even these have barely been distributed.

What we need is a well-funded, well-organized, well-staffed effort to produce, distribute, and inject the vaccine — and monitor its effects. But despite all the months of waiting for the vaccine to be developed and approved, almost nothing else was done by the federal government. Adequate funds were not provided to organize and provide the personnel, training, equipment, and transportation needed to get millions quickly vaccinated. This is in keeping with the government’s failures at all levels to organize testing and tracing, and produce enough protection equipment and ventilators throughout the pandemic.

The federal government left it to state and local governments to organize the vaccinations. But state and local public health agencies and healthcare facilities have had their funding drastically cut over the last decades, with layoffs, consolidations and closures. How could they suddenly organize this effort without more funds and personnel? We certainly can’t expect the private healthcare sector, whose goal is to make a profit, to suddenly provide a well-organized vaccination system. Furthermore, the pandemic has devastated the lives and health of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who have faced illness, death, over-work, and who are suffering from stress and PTSD. How can they be expected to be responsible for millions of vaccinations while caring for so many COVID patients?

So, what is the solution? When the U.S. government decided to invade Iraq in the first Gulf War in 1991, it deployed over 100,000 troops to the Middle East in a few days. This included transportation and everything they needed to live. When the One Percent and their politicians want something to happen, they find the funds and make it happen quickly. But our health is not their priority as they have made clear in the last year!

Let’s imagine for a moment that ordinary people were in charge of this vaccination process. The workers who produce all the goods, and make society’s systems run are in the best position to organize this process. Workers in manufacturing and delivery could create production and distribution plans. Doctors and health care workers could organize the vaccination process with help. Retired medical workers could be rehired. Funding could be provided to train unemployed workers to do the paperwork, testing, tracing and follow-up. Teachers, school employees, and parents could organize vaccinations around their schools’ neighborhoods.

Does this seem impractical? Or is it much more impractical to leave our lives in the hands of the politicians and bosses who are running the society today?