What a kickoff to 2021! Blockbuster movies now streaming on your handheld device. Stock market booming. And what about that vaccine? Where is it? When can I get it? What is the problem? Radar O’Reilly would have had this problem solved in a minute!
Problems mostly do have solutions. Steps to solving a problem are well understood and can be applied to our current situation with getting the vaccine into the arms of all of us. Why is it then, that problems with the vaccine continue to show up and interfere with moving forward? Let’s explore this a bit.
What’s the Problem?
Problem Statement: a person needs to receive a shot to protect them against COVID. What are the essential elements that need to be addressed in achieving that end? I’ll give you a few minutes to think about this. [PAUSE — Jeopardy music up and under] Okay — now let’s look at what you have identified.
The Person: Who is it and where does h/she live? Items needed: contact information, availability, suitability, and willingness to be vaccinated. Documentation kept on the medical conditions of the person getting the shot. Documentation of when the shot was given and follow-up for when the second shot should be given. Documentation of any reactions. Might be incentivized to get the short if paid.
The Shot: must be produced, stored, and then distributed with each of these points documented and signed off for safety and uniformity; must contain effective amount of material; must be stable; must be able to be transported; must be able to be traced; must be able to be stored; must be able to be opened; must be able to be injected; must be able to be disposed of; must have paperwork for each of these steps and quality control standards in place throughout process. Should be paid for.
The Person Injecting the Shot: must have some education, training, and/or aptitude for administering a shot; must be able to be in a place where the shot is going to be given; must be protected (PPE); must be available when shots are to be given; must have been tested to insure they are not infectious; must have supplies (needles, swabs, lollipops); must document each of these elements; should be paid.
The Delivery Guy: (There are actually several persons involved in the delivery, but the elements are the same): needs to have packaging for the shot; needs to have equipment to move and load the shot(s); needs to know where to pick them up and where to deliver them; needs to have a schedule to do this; needs to have all this documented; should be paid.
The Receiving Guy: needs to have a place to store the shot; needs to document receipt of the inventory; needs to confirm the package contains what it is supposed to (already there have been mix ups); needs to have space to make sure the shot doesn’t go bad before it is given; needs to have a system for documenting all of this; should be paid.
Actually Getting the Shot: Somebody needs to decide where and when shots will be given and then share that decision with all the folks noted above. Assuming all the above has been successfully coordinated, then somebody needs to notify those who are eligible to come and get the shot. Documents need to be kept to show who got the first shot and when they should get the second. Follow-up needs to be in place for those who show up for the shot but end up not being able to get it because they already have the virus or they are at risk for adverse effects. Follow-up needs to be in place for those who get the first shot but fail to return for the second.
Then you can get the shot.
Systems Need A Plan
Mind you, there are systems in place to manage most if not all of these elements. Only problem is there is no overall plan. This is like having a playoff game where the teams show up at the field, but there are no referees or coaches. Players will eventually do what they know to do (someone will kick the ball; someone will return it; there will be tackles and goals), but without coordination and agreed upon rules, it will be a messy affair.
At this point, pundits will swoop in and ask probing questions such as, “Why didn’t someone think this through?” or “We are better than this! Someone needs to be held accountable!” I call your attention, dear reader, to the fact that I did not include pundits in the necessary elements for getting the shot into your arm.
What is required here is something that has been lacking for a while at many levels in our society: leadership and collaboration. Oh, and a can-do manifester like Radar! While most of us aren’t as resourceful as Radar, within each of us is the ability to be accountable for our actions and to make decisions that are selfless instead of selfish. When we each act out of these values, we impact those around us, and they impact those they interact with, until there is a regular system-wide impact.
Don’t Be Righteous
Pay attention to your inner dialogue as you read these sentences. If you have already gone to righteous indignation, then kindly take a moment to exhale. Risk being wrong and give in to what may feel like a very vulnerable state of mind where your hopes, wishes, desires, and needs become secondary to those of humanity as a whole. Succumbing to this feeling is actually healthy. Otherwise, you will continue to experience psychic numbing at the increasing numbers of your fellow humans who no longer are breathing on their own or who have already died.
We have too easily fallen into arguing about things that don’t matter because it is much easier than facing the truth. All of us have played a role in this pandemic. Some consciously; some unconsciously.
The Virus Has No Favorites
The virus absolutely has no favorites. Its only goal is to replicate. Our only goal should be to stop it replicating. We can do that by getting vaccinated. We can do that by wearing masks. We can do that by washing our hands. We can do that by maintaining physical distance. We can do that by acknowledging that too many people have died and more will die because we did not do the right thing when we could and should have.
What we cannot do is continue to waste time and effort in talking about what should have been done. Now is the time for coordinated action. You can have your disagreements, but just as you would pull over to the side of the road when a fire truck or ambulance is behind you, full lights and sirens, you need to step to the side if you are not on-board because this is life and death.
Here are the action steps needed:
- Funding needs to be provided by Congress
- Distribution needs to be coordinated by a single source such as the CDC or WHO building on existing systems already in place.
- Documentation needs to be done at all levels in order to insure retrospective assessment of the process. Duplication of effort is inevitable on this first round, but does not need to be a barrier on the next round.
- I am staying home except for essential trips. I wear a mask the minute I get in my car and don’t take it off until I get home. I wash my hands frequently. I patiently wait for people to select purchases in stores and keep a safe distance from them. I thank all the folks who make my life possible.
I am a COVID survivor, so am not expecting to be vaccinated until much later this year, but I am going to get my shot. I am going to say prayers for those who died and share the grieving with those who have lost loved ones. None of this is a burden. None of this interferes with my rights and obligations as a citizen or member of my community. All it takes is action.