Vaccination Programs Are Moments of Unity. Do We Have It in Us?

We have begun to fight, but we are not out of harm’s way yet

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Today is a day filled with so many important reminders.

First — on the vaccine. Today is not the day of triumph. It is not the day of victory over Covid-19. But today is the day when we showed up to the fight.

Today is the day our troops landed on the beaches. And like Normandy, many many didn’t make it. They gave themselves not willingly but because the country proved defenseless.

Unlike other wars, we have had 300,000 casualties. Civilian casualties. Casualties of people that did not have to die. People who lost an average of 10 years. Today is a day I remember them.

I remember the individual ones I know including someone who died over the weekend. I can tell you how I feel. That we will look at everyone who died before a vaccine is someone who was a less than needed sacrifice. That, like people who died of polio in the 1940s and early 1950s, it was too soon.

This is also a reminder that no one is out of harm’s way yet. We have begun to fight now. But the enemy will be undeterred until it finds no place to go. It seeps in laughter and tears and shouts and close quarters and old buildings with no windows.

Today is a reminder that our investments in science have a goddamn purpose. Do-nothing elected officials that think government is bad and will try to cut the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lose the war today. Ted Cruz, Freedom Caucus, tea party rhetoric. You would have doomed us.

Today is also a reminder that we have screwed up every single stage of this battle so far and we could easily screw this stage up too. We have let selfishness, politics, lack of foresight, lies, and greed prevail. At a time when we need humanity to prevail, we were out of practice.

What makes us think that people who won’t mask for one another will willingly vaccinate for one another? What makes us think that rumors and fear-mongering and forces which put us against each other won’t prevail.

We could easily make the mistake of just expecting other people to vaccinate. We could make the mistake of hoarding vaccinations. We could make the mistake of demonizing people with serious questions about the vaccine.

These are the mistakes we make over and over. We burden others, succumb to misinformation, allow ourselves to be pitted against one another. These are traps we now fall into routinely. And of course, we fail to plan.

So we can show up on the beach expecting all the work to be done for us and we will get slaughtered. We can storm the beaches but not be together, we lose. Vaccination programs are moments of unity. Do we have those moments left in us?

If we are inequitable, if we are unorganized, if we don’t plan, if we bully, if we don’t listen to considerations, if we quit too early, we will have messed this up too and it will be sadly par for the course.

Today is also a reminder of why education matters, why STEM matters, why government matters, why civil servants matter.

Today is also a reminder of why certain people frankly have no business in public life. People who believe in herd immunity were strongly rebuked today. Their theory has led to 300,000 dead and possibly 15% of the population infected. It was a deadly inhumane path. It was herd thinning.

The chief among all herd thinners was Donald Trump. And it’s a good reminder that he took “no accountability.” It’s a good reminder that but for the scientists and the election, his strategy would have resulted in more than a million deaths.

It’s a reminder that this is far from over. Hospitals around the country lack the resources and the personnel. Some are going on strike in the middle of this. Nursing homes are losing dozens at a time, including a veterans’ home in Alabama.

I am sickened. Just before the vaccine, we are still seeing people die in massive numbers. People are still denying reality.

Donald Trump wants credit. Here’s my opinion. You want credit — go fucking earn it. Talk to your supporters about taking the vaccine. Lead a transition, not a temper tantrum. Care about the hundreds of thousands who we lost by preventing more deaths in the weeks left.

Today was a reminder that the electoral college, while it did a job, doesn’t always and is a relic and needs to go.

Today is a reminder that despite an election win there are many with a very different view of what this country should be. And much of that view needs to be better understood. And some of it just needs to be defeated. Sadly, continually.

Today is D-Day. With all these flaws, warts, villains, losses, tragedies, ugliness, and beauty. Today is a reminder that goodness has prevailed. And we must protect it.

(This is pulled and lightly edited from my December 14 Twitter thread.)

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Andy Slavitt

Andy Slavitt

Former Medicare, Medicaid & ACA head for Pres. Barack Obama. https://twitter.com/ASlavitt