Mixed Pfeelings on the Pfizer Shot

So today I got the first Pfizer shot, and an appointment for the second one on my birthday in August. I’ll take it as a present. When I learned I was eligible Monday and called to make an appointment, it occasioned an actual adrenaline hit to my system. This morning, I woke up like a kid on Christmas and bounded out of bed (actually I didn’t as Tako came up for some petting as I was getting up), and it’s been a very happy day. I am profoundly grateful to all the people involved in the long chain that got the vaccine into my arm, including the many staff at the Jewish General that made getting a shot fast and easy, and the nurses who came out of retirement to guide and handle the process. I’m even grateful to the bureaucrats who are overseeing a process in Quebec where we do not yet have enough vaccines.

But at the same time, I must conpfess to some mixed pfeelings.

For one, Carrie is not yet eligible despite being my caregiver and a type 1 diabetic. I brought her with me to the Jewish General on the hope that there would be spare vaccines and that we could sneak her in as my caregiver, but there was no luck (though it was still a rare outing for us, so it wasn’t all bad). We were told that sometimes there are extras at the end of the day, around 7:30 or 8pm. Montreal currently has an 8pm curfew and the Jewish is about 30 minutes away by car. We both knew it was a long shot, and also believe in prioritizing the people who most need limited resources in a pandemic, so we’re not outraged, but it would have been nice to both get vaccinated today.

For another, I got lucky to even learn I was eligible. The Quebec government’s messaging about who, under 55 or 60 (depending on where you live) is actually eligible changes multiple times a day. By the end of last week I was convinced that unless I was actually hospitalized, I was ineligible. Thanks to a couple friends, I found out on Monday, and called oncology, and they had appointments that day. But I had to defer as I had to go off my cancer meds for 3 days before getting the shot. So today was the day.

And pfinally (sorry/not sorry), we have to understand how much better things could be if things were just slightly different. I’m all for compensating people for the labour involved in getting the vaccine developed, tested and distributed. But after that, I don’t see why intellectual property rights (which remember, is nothing more than a temporary trade monopoly) for something as essential as a pandemic vaccine should be allowed or respected. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. States, including Canada, dismantled their pandemic warning and preparation systems as a cost-cutting measure, despite SARS being a recent memory and despite the epidemiology being quite clear on what to do. Decades ago the Canadian government sold off our domestic vaccine production capacity to a private company, which then eventually closed it down because it wasn’t profitable. All of these decisions were the effects of prioritizing money over human life.

In other words, it’s a pretty great day for me and for everyone else who went through the vaccine centre at the Jewish. But multiple things can be true. Today, and last week, and last month, and the month before that, could have been equally great for many more people. Remember the toll of unnecessary suffering from Covid next time you hear someone talk about efficiency or intellectual property as inherent organizational, social, or economic goods.