We Can't Take No for an Answer

By Susan Estrich

February 27, 2021 4 min read

I don't mean that we are going to punish a grandmother who has reason not to trust government.

I do mean that we have to figure out how to change her mind.

In California, Blacks and Hispanics are dying of COVID-19 at much higher rates than whites or Asians.

There are no City of Los Angeles or Los Angeles County vaccination sites anywhere near me. I'm not complaining. We drive.

I went to East LA, which is about 95% Hispanic, from West LA, where most white people live. Three freeways, no traffic and a whole lot of white people — friendliest 90-minute line you can imagine. We were thrilled to be there.

The polls tell you why. More than 80% of white people are ready to face three or four freeways to get a vaccine. Asians, too. But the numbers for Blacks and Hispanics are about half that.

That's why the site is where it is, along with mobile vans to make it even easier.

California offers vaccine codes for community leaders to distribute to people in hard-hit communities of color so they can schedule appointments. In LA, codes have quietly been passed to those on the Westside. Did they really think it would be kept a secret? The codes made it to Beverly Hills and then everywhere, becoming a feature Los Angeles Times story on yet another failed attempt to make it easier for people who need it most.

On the one hand, we have people like me and my neighbors who sit in front of computers all day and can easily navigate a multipage introduction and signup that the county uses. Most of the time, the one appointment you see is taken by someone faster than you, or someone who has the now-useless code.

When I say we snagged an appointment, I mean it. Within a matter of minutes, there were no appointments available, period — not on the City of LA sites, where appointments are run by a private company, and not even at Dodger Stadium, where the lines stretch forever.

I am incredibly grateful. My second Moderna shot was this week. No line, and the only side effect was exhaustion the next day — no fever and chills, as a good percentage of those who received the second dose reported.

We don't have enough vaccines for people who want to get it. And many of the most vulnerable people don't want it. On March 1, the LA County sites will open wider to include teachers, who will supposedly get priority, maybe through a code that could theoretically be shared with everyone else. On March 15, we will welcome those with specified underlying conditions to the game.

No one seems to know how making more people eligible will affect the eligible people you started with. People over 65 make up 81% of the COVID deaths in the country. Who gets priority?

There is, as always, an undercurrent that troubles me. It's the "if they don't want it, the lines will be shorter." "They" are Hispanics and Blacks. So long as there are not enough vaccines to go around, it is very difficult to convince someone that their dose should go to a grandmother who doesn't want it. The county is not going to succeed with that argument.

Adding more people to the list of those qualified is a good move politically because it looks like we're really getting past the virus. But the talkers say it could be May or June before everyone over 65 can be vaccinated.

So sick people and teachers can join the contest. That's what it is. Teachers are used to forms. They will be serious contestants.

We have not enough vaccines, too many people who want to be vaccinated and too many who don't.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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