Will Baltimore punish those signing up for vaccines "too soon?"

Baltimore is running into a problem with some of its citizens vying for a late entry on Santa’s naughty list. But for once, we’re not talking about gangbangers or corrupt politicians. Some of the citizens of Charm City have reportedly been signing up to receive the new COVID vaccinations but they aren’t on the list of privileged souls who are supposed to be at the head of the line. This is leading to dire warnings and castigation from the city’s elected officials. Nobody has been arrested or fined for these attempts at cutting the line. At least… not yet. But that day may be coming if this keeps up. Meanwhile, the ordered distribution of the vaccine doses is pretty much out the window anyway, since Baltimore appears to be screwing up just as badly as many other states. (Baltimore Sun)

People ineligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine have been signing up to be inoculated in Howard County anyways, taking appointments from first responders and healthcare workers, the local health department said.

If a person who is not yet eligible to be inoculated signs up for an appointment, the health department said, it effectively snatches a spot from a firefighter or medic or a frontline healthcare worker, professions tapped to receive the vaccine first.

Furthermore, appointments for those who registered inappropriately won’t be honored, the department said.

The development is slowing the health department’s efforts to inoculate those eligible to receive the vaccine, the supply of which is “extremely limited” in Howard County, the department said.

If there are people not scheduled to be among the first to be vaccinated who are signing up to receive a shot anyway, I suppose it’s not unfair to describe that as “snatching a spot” from a first responder or frontline healthcare worker. But that would only be true if there weren’t enough doses to go around for all of those first responders who want one. The article notes that the supply of vaccines is “extremely limited” in Howard County.

But how limited is it, really? The article from the Sun indicates that “the state hasn’t given more than 80%” of its vaccine doses as of Wednesday. That’s a rather unartfully phrased sentence, but whether they mean that 20% of the doses have been administered or 80%, there are still a lot of doses left over. If there are none left over in Howard County, couldn’t one of the other counties with fewer frontline workers transfer some of theirs down to Howard County and the city? Frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn they still had 80% of their vials left over after the news we learned about New York this week.

The answer as to why they have doses left over is probably a combination of factors. We’ve already seen repeated stories about fire departments, police departments and nursing staff where a majority of the people are either refusing the vaccine or holding off on getting it. But administrative blunders no doubt play a big part in the issue. It’s hard to use up all of the doses in the order prescribed by the government if you don’t have a system in place ahead of time that will allow you to get them where they are needed.

Getting back to the original subject, what, if anything should be done about people who sign up to receive a vaccination before “their turn” comes around? I’m guessing there are more than a few people who don’t obsess over the news every day and may not even be aware that they’re supposed to wait. Further, the system taking the reservations should be responsible for verifying the applicant’s eligibility, shouldn’t it? If someone applies and they don’t realize that the person isn’t in a qualifying category, the blames lies with them for not vetting them properly.

I suppose if someone comes along and lies about what they do for a living to get the vaccine early, that could be considered foul play, but is it illegal? Yet again, all we have are executive orders and CDC “guidelines” to go by in all of this. There are a lot of desperate and frightened people out there right now and I’m sure that includes Baltimore as well. Are you going to throw the book at them for trying to save their lives or those of their family?

It’s going to take many months before everyone in the country who wants a vaccination will have one. Any commodity in high demand and scarce supply is going to result in people trying to beat the system. This situation is no different. If we start locking people up for this, we’re setting our collective feet on a very dark path.