About thirty-five years ago, during breakfast, my former mother-in-law said she had to run errands throughout the day, culminating with a stop at the pharmacy for some PTA items. Confused by the comment, my ex-wife asked what ‘PTA’ items she was picking up while also noting her mother wasn’t part of the local Parent Teacher Association? “Oh dear, no.” she chuckled. “I am stopping for some ‘Pits, Tits, and Ass’ products.” My ex sat in shock while I rolled in laughter. Three decades later, I found myself doing the same.
Running late from an all-day work session, I stopped at a local downtown Chicago Walgreens a half-hour before closing. Not wanting to be the one dipstick who would keep workers late, I quickly collected my items and neared checkout. A pharmacy technician stopped me.
“Sir, may I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I nodded.
“Have you been fully vaccinated for COVID-19?”
“Yes, ma’am. I work in healthcare, and I am required to be fully vaccinated.”
“Was it the Pfizer vaccine?”
Smiling, “Are you eligible for the booster?”
“Well,” I paused. “I guess if I wanted to push it, I could qualify. However, I would rather have the first doses go to those over 60 and who are seriously immunocompromised.”
“Not to intrude, sir,” she smiled widely. “But do you meet the age requirement?”
“Yes, I am over 60.”
“Then I could use your help. If you have time, I would like to provide that Pfizer booster shot for you.” She paused a moment as she saw me calculating the pros and cons. “Before you say no. I have one Pfizer dose left and no one to vaccinate. All my other efforts to use this have gone for not. So, if you don’t take the booster, I have to throw it away.”
“Well,” I sighed. “Ok. Let’s do it.”
“Yes,” she exclaimed as she clapped her hands.
As many know, I have been calculating COVID-19 statistics for 38 states and 138 counties for eighteen months. Currently, only 55% of all people in Chicago are fully vaccinated. And to me, it’s such a shame that there weren’t others available to use this Pfizer dose. The On-Duty Pharmacist placed the jab into my left arm. Since I carry my vaccination card in my briefcase for employment purposes, the Pharmacist completed the third entry, titled ‘Other’ with the Product, Lot Number, Date, and Healthcare Professional. I paid for my PTA’s and let out a locked door ten minutes past closing.
Walking home, I reflected upon New York Time’s Opinion Video producer, Alexander Stockton, who traveled to Mountain Home, Ark., in the Ozarks, a region [he noted] “galloping contagion and — not unrelated — abysmal vaccination rates.” After receiving an unwanted booster, Stockton’s words were haunting, “It’s hard to watch the pandemic drag on as Americans refuse the vaccine in the name of freedom.” Stockton argues that unless the government upholds its duty to protect Americans and keep the common good in mind, the pandemic may be a battle with no end. His video is haunting.
A Quartz article noted the number of wasted vaccines. The US has run one of the most successful Covid-19 vaccination campaigns in the world. The country is swimming in vaccines—so much so that experts are warning it may lead to more wastage as supply begins to outstrip demand.
In May 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that approximately .44% of 353 million doses delivered were wasted. That’s roughly 1.55 million doses. Some mathematicians believe the real wastage rate is closer to 5%. In France, vaccine wastage is as high as 25% for some Covid-19 vaccines (link in French)—and many times lower than 50%, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates for wastage rates across all vaccine types. It’s a damn shame.
From a spiritual perspective, the core of most religious beliefs is the duty to respect human life. Yet, there’s so little we individually do to protect one another’s health in our waking world. From my perspective, vaccines are something we can do. After watching so many claim that they willingly seek the freedom of choice to potentially die via ventilator over a $19.50 vaccination dose tells me their moral compass is askew. Our obligation is to get vaccinated. I have seen many die via ventilator. Let me be the first to say that when one is dying in such a manner, vaccination no longer becomes a ‘deeply personal decision.’ They suddenly understand why it’s a routine public health requirement of a civilized society. But for some reason, that opportunity is often missed – until it’s too late.