Declining a Covid-19 shot because you think it should go to someone else won’t help anyone.
By Joanna Pearlstein Staff Editor
My oldest friend, a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, reports that a wealthy patient at her hospital offered $25,000 to jump the line and get the Covid-19 vaccine. (No dice.) I hear about people who work for health care institutions but are very far removed from patient care getting the vaccine, while my elderly relatives, desperate to find an immunization appointment, are emailing me with leads about a grocery store that someone on their local NextDoor message board said is giving out shots. (False.)
Ten months into this pandemic, the vaccines represent no less than salvation, hence the desperate rush to find a way — any way — to get them. But for some people the shots present a different problem: What if you’re eligible for vaccination but feel, for one reason or another, that you should yield the opportunity to someone more deserving?
As Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science writer, wrote in an Op-Ed this week, giving up a shot that’s offered to you, just because you think someone else needs it more than you, isn’t a sure bet. “For one thing,” she wrote, “there’s no reason to believe that if you forgo your dose, it will go to someone with a higher risk.” After all, we’ve seen precious doses tossed in the trash when they couldn’t be administered in time. The medical ethicists that Melinda spoke with agreed. “If you are eligible for a vaccination, you should get it, no matter how worthy — or unworthy — you feel,” she wrote.
Another reason to say yes to the shot: Human beings can be overly optimistic when assessing their personal risks. In other words, you might need it more than you think you do. And if you do get vaccinated, that could reduce the spread of the coronavirus in your community, which helps everyone.
Several weeks ago I found a paper in my 12-year-old son’s room. It read, in giant letters, “SPRING VACCINES.” He explained he’d written it to show his class (held on Zoom, of course) what he was hopeful for in 2021. Spring, for our family, sounds optimistic, though I’d sure love for him to be right. I’m content to wait in line for a while — but I’ll take the shot when I can get it.