I am angry and frustrated, and these feelings mixed with exasperation have led me to write this. In the U.S., we failed to contain the virus like New Zealand; we failed to mitigate it like Singapore; we failed to test for it like South Korea. We maybe did pretty well with treatment, but with the other failures, that still means so much unnecessary suffering and loss. Now we are failing with vaccinations. If we had done half as well as the other countries, we would be leading much more normal lives, and there would be less suffering and deaths.
Health care workers are getting traumatized. Not a single person entering the health care field wants to see or even decide who lives or dies or know someone could have made it if there was less strain on the system, but that is what is starting to happen with the overwhelming numbers of sick. It is predicted there will be an exodus of health care workers from the field. This is likely from the feeling of betrayal and lack of respect, as well as the horror they have witnessed. When people go out and celebrate and don’t follow recommendations to avoid the spread of COVID-19, health care workers who are battling the virus every day and are risking their lives feel betrayed. I am in primary care and not seeing the horror going on in hospitals, so I cannot comprehend my colleagues’ pain in the hospitals are feeling.
Like everyone else, I want to go back to “normal” and live and enjoy my life, but we have caused our own hardship in many ways by not containing, mitigating, testing, and now not vaccinating as we should. As a side note, I still cannot purchase the 3M N95 mask that I have previously been fit tested for — and yes, we are over nine months into the pandemic.
The vaccines brought a feeling of hope, but the distribution reality is quickly shattering that. For many months, the U.S. has known that COVID-19 vaccines were being developed and showing promise, but there has been a complete lack of planning. My husband, who needs to understand supply chain logistics for his work, rants daily about how the vaccines should have been distributed before approval, so if and when they were approved, they could be given quickly. He asks why companies who do this daily were not consulted? Can you imagine if the government asked Amazon to help with distribution? I can get a same or next day delivery of a package, so I think they would have some good knowledge to share.
If not involving the private sector, why were there not federal blueprints every state could utilize about the most efficient and effective way vaccines could be distributed and provided? Instead, each state and county has to develop the process for themselves. No state has the funds and pandemic plans to deal with this. Some states and counties are doing better than others. In Maricopa County, for the most part, health care workers have been able to get vaccinated or scheduled, but the time it is taking to vaccinate is too long. Currently, 57,000 vaccines have been given in AZ, but 250,000 vaccines sit in our storage facilities doing nothing for anyone. At this rate, it will take years to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity. Other states such as Florida have opened vaccination up to anyone over 65 without health care workers having been vaccinated, creating what is practically a free for all since there are not enough vaccinations yet or ways to provide them. I read stories on physician groups of primary care providers who cannot get the vaccine, even though they are testing and treating patients with COVID-19.
We need a mass vaccination program. Why aren’t we utilizing the National Guard? It really isn’t that difficult to give a shot; training could be as little as a few hours. If we want the title of the most advanced/best country in the world, we will have to earn it back.
Why are there not campaigns providing information about the vaccines? There are many misinformation campaigns with ridiculous ideas of microchips being implanted, the vaccine causing infertility, the vaccine changing your DNA, etc. I have seen the misinformation even start to create fear amongst some in the health care community about getting vaccines. Educate the public about why the vaccine was developed quickly (financial constraints were thrown out the window) and why the mRNA vaccines are newish but not really new technology (researched for over 15 years, and other vaccines have been created using mRNA such as Zika virus years ago). Yes, there may be short term side effects for 1 to 2 days, but much better than getting COVID-19 and potentially the known long term consequences of COVID-19.
Please, let’s turn the show around, for all of our sakes.
Zoë McMillen is a family physician.
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