I believe there is good in 99 per cent of people in the world. The 1 per cent, I can’t explain, so I won’t. I’m highlighting generalities in this piece, and I don’t mean to offend or label any group in a certain way. However, I believe it is important to discuss these matters for us to understand each other better.
There’s hope in the air. Some might believe it to be wishful thinking or delusion, but 2021 has definitely brought into picture some new next steps for the globe that we hoped to see coming, and they have. Vaccinations, however flawed in their distribution, are making their way through the population, and like everything else in the world, they are first being disseminated through the wealthier countries, and then trickling down to those places we seldom hear about unless we’re going there for an “exotic” vacation.
India has managed to successfully manufacture its own vaccine, one that they didn’t even wait for the final trial results, and it’s already being given to medical and frontline workers. The government has created a fairly comprehensive system for who will get the vaccine, and in what order. Medical workers were the first group to be vaccinated and understandably so, followed by frontline workers. Now, all people above the age of 60 or those over 45 with co-morbidities, will be able to take the vaccine, which will hopefully be followed by the remaining public.
It comes to literally no one’s surprise that in India, there are already many folks trying to find their way towards jumping the line, moving ahead on priority or utilising their contacts, their money, and their privilege to get the vaccine sooner rather than later. I’ve already interacted with several non-practising doctors who got their first dose of vaccine, yet spent the last year not even entering a hospital to help their overwhelmed and underappreciated medical ex colleagues. Who exactly are they helping besides themselves?
I then heard about numerous CEOs and executives affiliated with large businesses and government entities. They, too, had been vaccinated already. Could they not manage to do their work on Zoom anymore?
Access is a privilege in India and the minute you have it, you’re supposed to utilise it. I’m reminded of the film Titanic, where the lifeboats were being partially filled by the rich while the “women and children down here” were being left behind. It was an absolutely horrific moment to witness the dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots, and how power and money determined whether you lived or died.
While jumping the vaccination queue may hardly seem like a Sophie’s Choice moment, it does bring out the ugly truth about us. Why is it that privilege always supersedes need?
In a country where thousands of extremely gifted students are turned down by medical schools because of limited seats, it’s an amazing accomplishment to become a doctor. It is understandable that we have reservations for people who have been discriminated against for thousands of years. What is less understandable are those earmarked for the less deserving, usually underqualified students who have bank balances replacing their test scores.
So when the privileged become doctors and then decide to leave the profession to become businessmen and creative artists among other things, you have to wonder — are they really doctors anymore? Think about it, they took a spot from someone who wished to be a doctor and now, because of their degree — even if not practicing anymore — they are still eligible for the perks. Why are we okay with this? The same goes for the CEO, the actor, and the industrialist with political connections. Why do we think it’s okay for them to get on those lifeboats first?
I’m sure most will think this is a small gripe, and amounts to a very small percentage to an otherwise well managed and properly running system. “Just look what’s happening in America” has probably been the most commonly used defense to my concerns.
Let’s indeed take a look at the United States. The vaccination plan had thus far been a disaster, with the tide turning only recently thanks to political theatrics superseding the needs of its citizens. While some states and cities are miles ahead in terms of vaccinations, other places are struggling. There was no clear-cut system and thus, there’s been plenty of room for errors.
India, being the world’s largest democracy, has surprisingly thrived with the vaccination programme thus far because it has handled it far more authoritatively. The government decides how many vaccines are allocated, and to whom. While this actually is a great way to make sure the wrong people aren’t getting vaccinated first, it doesn’t judge those wrong people if they happen to fill out the right boxes on technicalities.
And now with the vaccine entering its third phase, the largest group so far, all individuals above 60 and over 45 with co-morbidities, I begin to wonder if those small cracks we saw with the doctors and executives will now increase with this far more broadranged category. In a country where so many don’t have actual proof of their birth date, have ID cards that seemingly have aged people years above their actual age or for some, made them younger, how do we manage things?
Truth be told, you can’t. The likelihood of these individuals jumping the queue is quite less. But I’ve already seen my friends, just above or even below the cut-off of 45 to meet their doctors and be diagnosed with a comorbidity, thus making them eligible for the vaccine faster.
Ultimately, I doubt many people will even know this is happening, and I highly doubt there will be much outrage or even annoyance. There is the argument that the faster everyone gets vaccinated the better, and I somewhat agree that those who are most impatient are likely to not follow the rules and travel more, so it is better to vaccinate them as soon as possible.
But it still doesn’t answer my underlying question — Are we supposed to accept the fact that there will always be folks that game the system? I’m an immune-compromised patient under the age of 45 who technically does not qualify under this category. I didn’t use my privilege or my non-practising but technically “doctor” title to scam my way into the first round. I also didn’t use my access via my NGO to be designated a frontline/essential worker. And now, while I’m happy that the elders of our country are next in line, I’m a bit concerned that my time has still not come yet. I could nudge my doctor and ask for an exception. I could contact my connections in the government. I could use my social media platform and make noise. But instead, I’m going to wait for my turn.
In a country where often the pushiest and most aggressive actions and players are rewarded, I’m much happier waiting for my turn because at the end of the day, every life matters, even if it’s still stuck in the waiting line.