On Jan. 18, Gov. Tim Walz announced expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations that included teachers, child care providers and utility and other essential workers. It also included those older than age 65. All of this with the vaccine in short supply. Clearly, Walz's words were meant to give hope to the large groups encompassed by the change. “Look what Gov. Walz is doing for us.” Expanded eligibility! What a deal! A positive political spin on the failed process of getting the vaccine into the arms of those most in need of the vaccine.
Recall that on Dec. 20, during a meeting of the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the vote was 13-1 to place those older than 75 second in line for vaccination. Nine months into the pandemic, health experts insisted minimizing deaths was priority No. 1. But that was before science and decency became inconvenient.
Those age 75 and older represent 73 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 nationwide. Minnesota reports 64 percent.
School children and those younger than 40 without underlying health issues are least likely to die from COVID. Online teaching and hybrid forms of education placed a burden on parents. Most all see that. What happened next was obvious. Parents lobbied politicians to open the schools or face re-election obstacles. Teachers worried about catching the virus resisted going back into the classroom. Could it be that the parents represented a significant voting bloc ready to pounce on Walz and other politicians if the schools were not re-opened? So, the governor put his hand on the chest of the next most vulnerable in line and in their place ushered in thousands of the most healthy, robust, and least vulnerable to dying from COVID. Teachers satisfied. Parents happy.
Whoa, is anyone worried about school kids, custodians, cooks, child care workers and administrators? No matter what excuse might be used, the one inescapable fact is that expanded vaccination eligibility ignores and abandons people older than 75 who make up the majority of COVID-19 deaths. It was wrong to expand and rearrange the vaccine line-up.
So, after society has wrung out goodness, work ethic, faith and usefulness from the bodies and minds of its elders, it is difficult to find logic in how society is willing to accept an altered vaccination line-up at the expense of those most vulnerable. It is indecent and immoral. Older than 85 first, 75 next and so forth.
I am 84. I am a former teacher. I live in rural Minnesota. I have no hope of getting a timely COVID-19 vaccination. After every other 84-year-old in Minnesota is vaccinated, I’ll take my place in line.
Larry Thomforde, of Zumbrota, is a graduate of Winona State University and a retired high school biology teacher.