It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since the pandemic brought the country to its knees.
The fast approval and manufacture of vaccines should have brought light to this dark nightmare. But instead of salvation, the vaccine is the center of confusion, frustration, and chaos.
The primary failure centers on the federal government’s inability to come up with consistent plans, guidelines and supplies, leaving states and cities to fend for themselves. The result is wildly inconsistent rates of vaccinations across the country.
But Philadelphia and its government – which has its own vaccine allotment through the CDC — has also failed.
It’s been just a few weeks since the Philly Fighting Covid debacle that put an unvetted group of 20-somethings in charge of mass vaccinations ended. Now, a new skirmish has broken out.
Last week, City Council members and elected officials including Allan Domb, Cindy Bass, Democratic chair Bob Brady and others proposed using Lincoln Financial Field to serve as a mass vaccination site. “Operation Philly Special” is a plan for when the government starts releasing high volumes of the vaccine. The Kenney administration fired back with objections that it would undercut the effort to distribute vaccines equitably, suggesting that the stadium location would be flooded with “white privileged suburban residents of other counties and states” over the Black and brown taxpayers of Philadelphia.
That’s a curious argument that suggests there would be no protocols for insuring eligibility — like proof of residency. The administration also argued that the stadium site would leave behind many residents who don’t have cars, even though the Linc proposal incorporates a transit plan. It’s hard to give credence to these arguments and their pettiness suggests political posturing is at its heart. The Kenney administration, which is discussing with FEMA a vaccination plan at the Convention Center, may be feeling understandably raw after Philly Fighting Covid , but the lesson in that disaster should have been to bring more people together to create a plan.
This is not about which would make a better vaccination site. Both the Linc and Convention Center would presumably be one site among many others throughout the city. What this fight represents is a squandered opportunity to plan well. After all, it hasn’t been weeks since the city knew it would have to vaccinate a lot of people — it’s been nearly a year. Sure, it’s a complicated logistical problem, but further complicating it with politics is utterly confounding.
The bickering also adds to a serious trust gap that is already a challenge with vaccinating everyone, especially among Black and brown residents vulnerable to COVID-19. Confronting this gap takes education, but it also requires giving people confidence in their government’s commitment to putting aside differences and working together.
The Mayor has missed a chance to lead – to create an opportunity for all elected officials to work together for the common good, present a picture of unity and cooperation, and give comfort and confidence to citizens panicked over how and when they are going to get the vaccine.
Vaccines should have brought hope. Instead, they’ve brought squabbling and politics. That’s sickening.