The global shipping crisis and labor shortages may get worse because of the slow vaccine rollout for seafarers, say experts

Container ship
Slow vaccine rollouts for seafarers risks worsening the existing worldwide shipping crisis.

  • A slow rollout of COVID-19 for seafarers risks worsening a worldwide shipping crisis.
  • Infections on vessels are rising, which could further harm already strained global supply chains.
  • Shipping experts warn of delays and a tightened labor pool leading up to Christmas.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations for seafarers is proving problematic for the beleaguered shipping industry, according to experts.

When outbreaks occur on ships it can endanger marine works and cause further disruption to trade, Bloomberg reported.

Despite efforts to vaccinate seafarers in ports, most are still largely dependent on their home countries to be vaccinated – and more than half of the 1.6 million maritime workers globally come from developing countries such as India, the Philippines, or Indonesia, the outlet reported.

ICS estimates only 35,000-40,000 seafarers are vaccinated – 2.5% of the global pool of maritime workers.

“Supply chains are already stretched from a robust bounce back in consumer demand, semiconductor shortages, and shipping difficulties such as the Suez Canal blockage and Chinese port closures,” Tom Fairbairn, a shipping expert, told Insider.

According to the WHO, more than 80% of global trade by volume is moved by maritime transport. The global economy depends on the world’s two million seafarers who operate the global fleet of merchant ships.

Illness and economic hardship remain a serious problem for these workers amid the pandemic.

A new report by Thetius and sponsored by Inmarsat discussed the future of seafaring, as well as the current problems. It stated: “2020 showed the collective ineffectiveness of the entire shipping industry, including charities, corporates, unions, and even international bodies such as the IMO, to act as a voice for the needs of seafarers during a crisis.”

It added: “Governments around the world have repeatedly failed to act on the crew change crisis, which still exists at the time of writing.”

In May, a seafarer died and several medical workers in Indonesia were ill with the delta variant of COVID-19 after a ship with an infected Filipino crew docked in Central Java on April 25. Around the same time, the shipping industry endured more chaos after an outbreak at one of China’s busiest ports in the province of Guangdong triggered a backlog of shipments at four major ports.

Situations like this are worsening the existing worldwide shipping crisis, which has raised costs and led to shortages of many products, from chicken to semiconductors, as a result of the pandemic, Insider’s Rachel Premack reported.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which acts for shipowners said: “With this new delta strain, there’s no doubt it’s setting us back and the situation is getting worse. Demand for products isn’t letting up, crew changes aren’t happening fast enough and governments continue to stick their heads in the sand.”

The forecast growth in the world merchant fleet over the next decade, and its anticipated demand for seafarers, will likely continue the trend of a shortage in the supply of officers, according to the ICS.

This is why Fairbairn warns: “Those down the supply chain must be prepared for further disruption in the critical run-up to Christmas.”

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New study estimates America’s rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout saved nearly 300,000 lives

covid vaccine
A medical assistant administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a woman at a clinic in Los Angeles on March 25, 2021.

  • The US’s rapid vaccine rollout helped prevent a spring surge of 4,500 daily COVID-19 deaths, a new study found.
  • Nearly 300,000 lives were saved and 1.25 million hospitalizations prevented by America’s vaccine program.
  • Researchers said a “renewed commitment to expanding vaccine access” is necessary to stomp out the virus.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US COVID-19 vaccine rollout was swift enough to save hundreds of thousands of live and prevent millions of hospitalizations, even as more transmissible and deadlier strains of the virus took hold, a new study found.

Without readily available access to multiple FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines in late 2020 and 2021, deaths from COVID-19 would have jumped to 4,500 each day during a second “2021 spring surge” spurred on by the Alpha variant that originated in the UK, the study from the Yale School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund found.

Instead, vaccinations in the US saved approximately 279,000 lives and prevented up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations, according to researchers, who studied the impact of vaccination in the country from Dec. 12, 2020, through July 1, 2021.

As of July 7, 157.9 million people in the US were fully vaccinated and another 182.8 had received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Fifty-five percent of the US is fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times vaccination tracker, making it the 17th most vaccinated country globally. But the study notes that millions of Americans remain unvaccinated – a cause for worry as the highly infectious Delta variant takes hold in several states.

In Israel, which saw one of the quickest vaccine rollouts in the world, officials have reinstated some early COVID-19 restrictions like mask-wearing and travel rules, as a result of the Delta variant’s spread.

Experts worry the contagious variant is being spread asymptomatically by those who are vaccinated, which could pose significant problems of “long-COVID” among young people.

Almost all of the COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among the unvaccinated. Only about 0.1% of people who were hospitalized in May for COVID-19 were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Since the US began its vaccine program in December, more than 303,000 Americans have died and more than 1.5 million have been hospitalized for COVID-19. But the country’s early rollout, which ramped up in February and March, “played a critical role in curtailing the pandemic,” the study said.

“A renewed commitment to expanding vaccine access will be crucial to achieving higher levels of vaccination necessary to control of the pandemic and prevent avoidable suffering, particularly for those in historically underserved groups and areas of the US with low vaccination rates,” the authors said.

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The reopening is not priced in equally and 3 stock sectors in particular are primed for more upside, Morgan Stanley says

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People take photos by the Morgan Stanley building in Times Square in New York on February 20, 2020.

  • Morgan Stanley says the reopening of the economy brings “significant uncertainties” over where to invest.
  • “Reopening does not mean a full return to pre-Covid consumptions,” the analysts said in a note.
  • The bank said it sees cyclical upside in three sectors: banks, capital goods, and materials.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell

With the US economy on track for a summer rebound thanks to steady vaccine rollout and the landmark stimulus aid package, uncertainty about where investors should park their money abounds, Morgan Stanley said in a note Wednesday.

“Exiting the Covid-economy comes with significant uncertainties, and ‘reopening’ does not mean a full return to pre-Covid consumptions,” analysts led by Adam Virgadamo, CFA, said in a note.

With global equities near all-time highs after being pummeled by a year of the global pandemic, Morgan Stanley said it now sees a cyclical upside in three sectors: banks, capital goods, and materials.

The analysts developed a tool that uses a framework to analyze stocks in the US, Europe, and Japan. The process found that certain cyclical stocks which have large overlaps with reopening plays have “rerated relative to the broader market such that a recovery seems reasonably well priced.”

  • Europe: Banks and Capital Goods
  • Japan: Autos, Goods, Transports, and Materials
  • US: A more diversified mix though leaning toward Energy, Banks, Capital Goods, Airlines, a mix of Tech

Morgan Stanley said that much of the reopening is priced in, although not equally across cyclical sectors. Discretionary and industrials, for instance, are aggressively pricing recovery and reopening while energy, financials, and materials have been slower to do so.

The cycle reset, the bank added, also lowered the premium on defensive stocks, with health care among the most defensive for stock opportunities. Pockets of real estate, such as offices, meanwhile continue to face challenges.

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Trump is desperate to get credit for the COVID-19 vaccines, but his political heartlands are reluctant to actually take them

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  • Trump has long been anxious to get credit for the COVID-19 vaccines developed during his presidency.
  • But Trump-voting counties show higher rates of vaccine hesitancy, Axios reported.
  • Other factors, such as poverty and lack of vaccine access, could also help explain the correlation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump makes no secret of wanting to take credit for the existence of COVID-19 vaccines – but data shows his supporters are still less likely to want the shot.

Trump has long been anxious that nobody forgets one of the biggest advances from during his presidency: the vaccines.

Of the major shots developed in the US in record time, one of them – made by Moderna – was a major beneficiary of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

In November he went as far as to take credit for Pfizer’s vaccine, despite it not having been developed under the government initiative.

That has lasted well into his post-presidency. At an event at Mar-A-Lago last week, he reportedly remarked to GOP donors that the vaccine should be called the “Trumpcine.”

trump vaccine operation warp speed
Trump greets the crowd before he leaves at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on December 08, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Vaccine rollouts have accelerated fast under Joe Biden’s presidency, which has seen 100 million people getting at least their first shot within his first three months.

But according to Axios, that uptake is slower in Trump’s own heartlands.

Axios processed data from tge CDC and New York Times to show that counties with a higher rates of people voting for Trump in the last presidential election correlated with a higher rate of hesitancy.

That certainly was the case in one small, intensely Trump-supporting Cimarron County, Oklahoma, in March, when CNN asked the customers at a diner if anyone was going to get the vaccine. Nobody raised their hands, and the network struggled to interview anyone who trusted it.

That said, it may be a mistake to overly characterize the issue along political lines, an expert told Axios.

Many red states have higher proportions of Black Americans, a demographic that is more likely to “wait and see” before getting the vaccine, the outlet said.

Also, hesitancy is far from the only factor causing a low uptake in the vaccine in Trump-supporting areas.

“It could be that people who believe in Trump and voted for Trump don’t want to get vaccinated. It could also be that those places did a lousy job making vaccines available,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the outlet.

He added that it could be “really, really” harmful to oversimplify the correlation.

Either way, the problem is worrisome because of another connection – that people in the areas with the lowest rates of vaccination are also the most vulnerable to the virus in the first place, Axios reported.

According to the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, these areas have worse transportation, higher rates of poverty, and more crowded housing – all adding to the risk during a public health crisis.

Trump has been far more vocal about the success of the vaccine development as a political achievement than about its medical benefits.

That’s not to say he has outright discouraged it – in a March Fox News appearance he recommended getting the shot. But there have been multiple occasions where the publicity-friendly former president has been uncharacteristically shy to promote it.

Notably, he was the only living former president who did not join a public awareness advert advocating its benefits.

It also took more than two months for the news to emerge that he and former First Lady Melania Trump had quietly been quietly vaccinated in January.

Meanwhile, pro-Trump outlets have continued to peddle skepticism around the vaccine and even the deadliness of the virus itself.

As Insider’s Tom Porter has reported, Fox News’ pro-Trump primetime hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson have all introduced doubt about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy since Biden took over.

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The UK economy grew 0.4% in February – but analysts say a rapid vaccine rollout should now power speedy growth

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The UK has been fast at rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

The UK economy grew 0.4% in February, data showed on Tuesday, starting what analysts expect to be a rapid rebound for the country from last year’s deep COVID-19 slump.

The growth was slightly below analysts’ expectations of 0.5% and followed an upwardly revised 2.2% fall in gross domestic product in January, when tough coronavirus restrictions were put back in place to try to tackle a surge in infections.

It left the country’s GDP 7.8% smaller than before coronavirus hit, according to the Office for National Statistics, following a 9.8% drop in 2020 – the worst performance in the G7.

Analysts expect the UK economy to bounce back rapidly in 2021, however. The government is expected to gradually lift restrictions after a series of lockdowns that battered businesses and household finances.

“GDP rising modestly in February despite restrictions after a surprisingly small contraction in January shows the UK economy is now being less affected by lockdowns than was originally the case,” said Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY Item Club.

“Lessons have been learned in keeping economic activity going during lockdowns.”

Deutsche Bank senior economist Sanjay Raja said in a note on Monday he expects the UK economy to grow 6% in 2021.

“The UK recovery has begun,” he said. “We don’t expect to see another negative print for some time.”

Raja added: “The modest February unwind should give way to an even bigger jump in March, where we see activity ramping up even more as schools reopen and mobility trends up.”

Goldman Sachs reckons the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines should help the economy reopen and recover rapidly, spurring growth of 7.1% in 2021. That is well above the consensus estimate of around 5%.

The ONS said services – the powerhouse of the UK economy – grew just 0.2% in February, when the country was still under tough coronavirus restrictions. Manufacturing grew 1.3% and construction grew 1.6%, the ONS said.

The UK pound rose slightly against the dollar after the data was released, and traded around 0.12% higher at $1.375 on Tuesday morning.

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Johnson & Johnson takes over COVID-19 vaccine production at Baltimore plant after 15 million doses were ruined

johnson and johnson covid vaccine
Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is delivered as a single shot, while both Pfizer and Moderna’s require two jabs.

  • Johnson & Johnson has been put in charge of COVID-19 vaccine production at a Baltimore plant.
  • The move comes after 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were ruined in a mixup.
  • The error did not impact any vaccines that are currently being delivered or used.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Johnson & Johnson, with the aid of President Joe Biden’s administration, has been put in charge of a Baltimore vaccine production plant that ruined 15 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine and has moved to stop British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc from utilizing the facility to avoid any future mistakes, senior federal health officials said on Saturday.

The extraordinary decision, which was first reported by The New York Times, was put into action by the US Department of Health and Human Services and will allow the Emergent BioSolutions plant to focus on making the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson confirmed the move on Saturday, stating that it was “assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance” at Emergent.

“Specifically, the company is adding dedicated leaders for operations and quality, and significantly increasing the number of manufacturing, quality and technical operations personnel to work with the company specialists already at Emergent,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

The change comes after the disclosure that Emergent, which is a manufacturing partner to both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, mixed up ingredients from the two coronavirus vaccines in a case of human error, causing regulators to delay authorization of the facility’s vaccine production.

The mixup ruined nearly 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses.

The error did not impact any vaccines that are currently being delivered or used, according to the Times report.

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

The Biden administration has made note of the delay and has not shifted its stated goal of having enough vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May.

According to the Times report, federal officials are concerned that the mixup could dampen confidence in the vaccines just as Biden is aggressively pushing for mask mandates to remain in place as new COVID-19 variants spread throughout the US.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine, which has had a troubled rollout in Europe due to a risk of rare blood clots possibly linked to the vaccine. However, the United Kingdom’s drug regulator deemed the vaccine as safe.

AstraZeneca said that it would work with the Biden administration to find an alternative site for its vaccine production, which has not yet been authorized in the US.

“AstraZeneca and the US government continue to work closely together to support agreed upon plans for the development, production and full delivery of the vaccine,” the company wrote in a statement.

With three vaccines authorized in the US – from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna – it is unclear if there will even be a need for an additional vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said as much in a recent interview with Reuters.

“That’s still up in the air,” Fauci said. “My general feeling is that given the contractual relationships that we have with a number of companies, that we have enough vaccine to fulfill all of our needs without invoking AstraZeneca.”

However, a federal official said that the HHS is in talks with AstraZeneca “to adapt its vaccine to combat new coronavirus variants,” according to the Times report.

As of Sunday, nearly 30.7 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 554,000 people have died of the illness, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Several patients at a Virginia Kroger clinic received an empty shot instead of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine distribution

A Virginia Kroger gave several people “empty” shots that were supposed to contain vaccines for COVID-19, according to ABC 8News.

The healthcare professional who gave the shots to less than 10 people believed that the syringes had been previously filled by a colleague before the appointments started, a spokesperson for Kroger told 8News.

At first, the company told outlets 8News and CBS 6 that the syringes contained saline but later clarified that they were completely empty. That risks pumping air into people’s veins that can cause air embolisms and block blood flow.

Read more: The 4 things the US is doing wrong in the fight against COVID-19, and what we should be doing instead

“All impacted customers were contacted and have received their COVID-19 vaccine. We thank these customers for their understanding and have apologized for their inconvenience,” a spokesperson for Kroger told Insider.

The clinic is investigating the matter to prevent a similar situation from recurring in the future, and the Virginia Department of Health is aware of the incident, they said.

The retail chain aims to double its vaccine capacity to 1 million doses per week.

As of March 13, about 20% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine for COVID-19, Bloomberg data show. More Americans have received vaccines than have tested positive for the virus, that report said. At the current rate, it will only take about 5 months until 75% of the US population, enough for “normalcy,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, is inoculated.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis said ‘any type of lockdown’ in Florida is ‘insane,’ despite Biden’s warning of possibly reinstating restrictions

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis said there would be no lockdowns in the state of Florida.
  • His remarks run contrary to President Joe Biden’s warning one day earlier that the US might “have to reinstate restrictions” if the public isn’t vigilant.
  • “To even contemplate doing any type of lockdown, honestly it’s insane,” DeSantis said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday shot down the notion of instituting a lockdown in his state, despite a warning from President Joe Biden that there might have to be additional coronavirus restrictions put in place if the public isn’t “vigilant.”

“To even contemplate doing any type of lockdown, honestly it’s insane,” DeSantis said during a press conference.

“That’s not gonna happen in the state of Florida,” he continued. “We’re gonna continue doing what works, but under no circumstances would we entertain anything of the sort.”

Biden in his prime-time Thursday address said beating the coronavirus pandemic depends on “national unity.”

“And national unity isn’t just how politics and politicians vote in Washington or what the loudest voices say on cable or online. Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans,” he said. “Because if we don’t stay vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track. And, please, we don’t want to do again.”

Biden did not specify any states when talking about the potential for added restrictions.

Still, DeSantis insisted on Friday, “we are not going to let him lock down Florida.”

“We like the fact that people have been able to work here,” the governor said. “So we’re going to continue doing what works, but under no circumstances would we entertain doing anything of the sort.”

It’s been just over one year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, more than 29 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of that, more than 500,000 Americans have died.

Florida alone has more than 1.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Hopkins data.

DeSantis’ remarks come as crowds of mask-less spring breakers appear in the state, and as numerous COVID-19 variants emerge.

“We’ve made so much progress. This is not the time to let up,” Biden said in his address. “Just as we are emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules.”

DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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CEO of Oak Street Health: When the pandemic finally subsides, let’s not forget to address root cause of health disparities

MIKE PYKOSZ   Oak Street Health (1)

With more than 525,000 lives lost to COVID-19, the United States is dealing with loss that was unimaginable just one year ago. This number is staggering, heartbreaking, and, unfortunately, growing so high that it can be difficult for people to remember that each life lost belonged to someone’s mother, father, daughter, son, or friend. Although nearly anyone is susceptible to catching the virus, people of color have been cruelly and disproportionately impacted this entire year.

While the pandemic is shining a light on the deeply rooted health disparities in our country, there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the marvel of science and medicine, and we are all excited for the day that we can put COVID behind us and return to a semblance of normalcy. When that happens, we must not lose focus on the need to deliver quality, equitable healthcare for all Americans – no matter their race or zip code and socioeconomic status.

These health disparities have existed well before COVID-19 did. More than a decade ago, I worked as a healthcare consultant in Chicago and was struck by the decades-wide gap in life expectancy between affluent, mostly white neighborhoods like the Gold Coast and poor, mostly black South-side neighborhoods just a few miles away. And this is still true today. Residents of Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood live an average of 30 years longer than those in Englewood, just nine miles away. This challenging year has exacerbated existing issues with access and care quality; and we’ve seen it in COVID death rates, access to testing and as I write this now, the vaccine rollout.

So how do we fix the underlying issues with the healthcare system once mask mandates are rescinded and social distancing is behind us?

First, we continue to focus on building trust with underserved communities, educating people who have not traditionally had access to the healthcare system around the importance of longitudinal preventative care. In particular, people of color have historical mistrust in healthcare and therefore often wait until an acute episode has occurred before engaging with the healthcare system. However, when they are cared for by someone who takes the time to get to know them, treats them like a person and not a number, puts in the hard work to build trust, and provides culturally sensitive and unbiased quality care, health outcomes will greatly improve and the gap can start to close.

It also means that today’s healthcare providers need to roll up their sleeves and become part of the community they serve. Building partnerships with community leaders like Pastors and Alderman, and being a true pillar of a neighborhood in order to build relationships and educate patients and community members on important health issues.

Second, we continue structural changes to improve access. When the testing and vaccine sites set up in health care deserts and underserved communities are no longer needed they should be replaced with primary care centers. In Chicago, for example, there are mass vaccination sites held in neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, as designated by the City’s Protect Chicago Plus initiative. The effort includes partnerships with existing health care organizations along with proactive, targeted outreach by community organizations directly to community members to ensure the vaccine reaches Black and Latinx residents. This means that people who lack the resources like time or technology needed to secure a highly sought after appointment won’t be left behind. This strategy is working, and should be a playbook for cities across the country, both for vaccine distribution and for primary care when the pandemic subsides.

Third, we must focus on innovation and nimbleness to adapt to the needs of individuals and communities. Traditional fee-for-service, one-size-fits-all healthcare organizations can’t sustainably serve people in an equitable, culturally competent, and compassionate way. When the pandemic first hit, many primary care providers across the country had to shut down, or at the very least greatly restrict patient access. Value-based care organizations that are focused on outcomes rather than volume of services rendered have the ability to provide as much proactive, preventive care, and adapt as needed to keep patients healthy. These types of organizations were able to greatly ramp the care they were providing while traditional organizations were pulling back.

We are at an inflection point in our country as it relates to healthcare, but nothing we have learned this year is new information. We have an opportunity to rethink how we offer healthcare to the patients who need it most, and build a better healthcare system that is more equitable and just for all.

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I’m a healthy 40-year-old who received the COVID-19 vaccine – and I’m scared to tell anyone

Vaccine
  • Covid-19 vaccine cancellation lists are luck of the draw but can be worthwhile.
  • Healthy individuals who do not yet qualify for the Covid-19 vaccine can still receive it…if they are in the right place at the right time.
  • Receiving the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of your allotted time comes with a plethora of ethical dilemmas.
  • Erin Marsh is a writer and yoga teacher from the Midwest.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I am a healthy 40-year-old woman who works remotely…and I just received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I did this despite the fact that Ohio is still in Phase 1B, which means only those who are 65 years and older, have a qualifying condition, or work in a school setting are eligible for the vaccine.

When the COVID-19 vaccines first became available, I remember feeling an odd sense of relief I wouldn’t be in Phase 1 rollout – or even Phase 2. Yet as I watched friends, family, and acquaintances share their vaccine posts and videos, often with the hashtag #FauciOuchie, my fear dissipated and optimism crept in. After nearly a year of being quarantined and working from home with two young kids who are learning virtually, I finally allowed myself to believe there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Skipping the line? 

When my close friend Aya Khalil, an award-winning children’s author, explained what vaccine cancellation lists were, I dismissed her. After all, what were the chances I would make the cut? It felt akin to winning the lottery! 

Yet Khalil insisted and pointed out it had worked for others, and to appease her, I called my local Rite Aid Pharmacy early Saturday morning and requested to be added to their cancellation list. The pharmacy tech assured me anyone could join the list (even a healthy 40-year-old), reminded me my chances were slim, and suggested I check regularly online for cancellations.

The odds of receiving a slot were so dubious I neglected to sign up my husband as well, even though his work at hospitals increases his risk and he does not qualify as an essential worker. To my amazement, I received a call from Rite Aid the very same afternoon. I had less than an hour from the time of the call to arrive at the pharmacy in order to receive the vaccine before it was too late. I hung up in a stupor. 

I felt joy and disbelief over my good fortune. With such a tight time-frame, I was prevented from diving into the feelings of guilt and doubt I experienced below the surface of my excitement. Catapulted into action, I didn’t have the luxury of overthinking. 

The overall vaccine process was efficient and relatively painless. When I arrived, the pharmacist, who appeared flustered and overworked, thanked me for arriving quickly so the vaccine “didn’t go to waste.” I filled out some forms and took my seat. I waited with three others who had also been on the cancellation list: a UPS driver who delivered regularly to Rite Aid and had the inside scoop, a newly retired woman who had called every location to be added to their waitlists, and a quiet man around my age who paced nervously. 

Eventually, the pharmacist ushered me into the room, quickly administered the vaccine, and then asked me to wait for 15 minutes to watch for adverse reactions. Overall, the process took about an hour from start to finish. 

In chatting with the UPS driver, he claimed the first weekend of vaccine distribution had been reserved for Rite Aid staff and their families. Maybe our spots were available due to cancellations or perhaps because of employees’ unwillingness to get vaccinated; either way, we were grateful for the opportunity.

According to the pharmacist, Rite Aid had not yet been listed on the Lucas County Health Department website as a COVID-19 vaccine distribution site, so their cancellation list was small. She frankly said, “You got lucky. In another week, our cancellation list will be so long that few people will be as lucky.” Hearing this, I promptly added my husband’s name to the list. Shockingly, a week later he was called and received his first dose.  

Outside of a slightly sore arm where the vaccine was administered, I experienced zero side effects. Once the deed was completed and I had time to process, I began to question whether or not I should have received the vaccine.

A question of ethics

My brother, Chad Schoen, a 36-year-old public school substitute teacher and musician, is at an increased risk as a smoker but refuses to get the vaccine. He explains, “There are people out there who need it more than I do. Yes, I’m a smoker, but I run every day, and I’m at a much lower risk statistically than other people, and I’d rather they get it than me.” 

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prioritized teachers and school staff as “essential workers,” and Ohio is one of the 37 jurisdictions that moved educators to Phase 1. Reopening schools safely has been a priority for the Biden administration, and one component is vaccinating as many adults in education as possible. 

Schoen replies, “Everyone is an essential worker in my eyes, and every job is essential in its own aspect. But when it comes to being a teacher and dealing with kids, the guidelines from last week to this week are contradictory.”

Others in education don’t feel the same. Phoebe Samuel Rapp, a long-term substitute art teacher at a private all-girls high school, reveals why she received the vaccine: “I’m in school every single day and I’m constantly in contact with students, and with the hands-on nature of art, it’s challenging to stay socially distant. By getting vaccinated, even as a healthy person, you help the overall population.”

Rapp, who was born in Egypt and moved to the United States at a young age, jokes, “My mom has a background in microbiology, and we look at vaccinations as a great alternative to death. We came from a third world country where access to this kind of thing is nothing short of a miracle. I think anyone who has the opportunity to get the vaccine is serving the community by taking it.”

Khalil also received a vaccination due to a cancellation. Mother to three little ones, she shares, “My husband is a healthcare worker who interacts directly with COVID patients, so it’s possible that he can pass it on to our family. Having that added protection [of me also being vaccinated] is reassuring. At first I was pretty hesitant when I heard about the cancellation lists, but then I read up on it. Epidemiologists say the more people who get it, the better, and…the vaccines don’t go to waste. That made me feel better about it.”

While I’m (mostly) confident in my decision to get the last-minute Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, I can’t help worrying about the judgment I will face from others and have yet to publicly share my good fortune. It’s a strange world to live in where getting a vaccine has become an ethical and exceedingly debated topic. The only thing I can do is focus on the benefits for me, my family and my community.

Erin Marsh is a writer and yoga teacher from the Midwest who enjoys looking at the world upside down and using semicolons whenever possible.

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