Yesterday I received news that was exciting and frustrating. My sister announced to our family text thread, "Today I got a vaccine."
This was exciting because it is evidence that there is a vaccine, it is being distributed, and those affects are touching my family and my community. We are getting closer to conquering the virus. We ought to be excited and encouraged. This deadly virus will soon be defeated. Wonderful!
But my second reaction came when one of the family members asked, "How did you get a vaccine?"
The answer was simple, "I am a teacher."
To be clear, my sister is a 22-year-old student-teacher finishing her degree at an Oregon university. This points to a glaring disparity: Our 80-year-old grandparents have not received a vaccine.
We have been told for the past year, if someone the age of my sister were to contract COVID-19, she would probably only experience mild symptoms with high likelihood of recovery whereas our grandparents are far more likely to experience death. So for what reason has my sister received a vaccine before our grandparents?
My sister has the vaccine first because the union she is related to negotiated their place in the line. This fact is a small but potent example of the vulnerable usurped by those with organized political clout.
This reality does not represent justice within the structures of government but rather a clear indication of who has wielded their influence for their own good at the expense of others. In this case, our most vulnerable. I feel compelled to ask: do we want to live in a society where the most politically powerful can pull community resources, for marginal gain, away from those who would experience the most lifesaving help?
This pandemic has torn through our society, communities and neighborhoods and has shown us our weaknesses: broken organizations, institutions or supply chains on which we have developed a dependency.
It is obvious to me that this pandemic has exposed yet another flaw in our current politically organized governmental structure, and one that we should call into question and ask for remedy. The political clout of public servants should not hold our most vulnerable at risk for their own self-interest.
Many of us have been working hard to navigate this pandemic. Essential workers have taken risks to make sure the most vital work has been accomplished. We must do this together and not ask the most vulnerable of society to take on risk so we do not have to.
I, for one, am glad to see that my sister has the vaccine, but I do not want to trade that good news for the possible bad news that grandparents will never get to hold their great-grandkids.
Aeric Estep is a West Linn resident.
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