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The vaccine clinic heroes – and those who have undermined them

There we were at the vaccination tent on Super Sunday, the few, the proud, the ones with injections canceled six days earlier by a snowstorm.

The faces are weathered but expressions hopeful. The comaraderie is a throwback to a year ago — when 30 people could socialize at a Super Bowl party.

The clearinghouse desk is manned by a county detective who volunteers on his two days off a week to get people through the process, sometimes handling a thousand people in a day.

I tell him he is a hero and he says, “Nope, just trying to help.”

A nurse puts a temperature measure to my bald forehead and signals I can proceed to the coordinating supervisor’s line. I am thinking it is easy to get a quick read when the instrument is applied to a smooth surface.

I am in line with an 80ish gentleman wearing a USMC cap. We wonder why willingness to get the vaccine is not 100 percent.

“You can’t fix stupid,” he says.

We wonder why little old West Virginia, the butt of countless jokes regarding native intelligence, is getting the COVID vaccine in the arms of people much faster than Pennsylvania.

“They are distributing this thing up and down all those hills and country roads, too,” he says. “Makes no sense.”

On to the coordinating supervisor’s table.

“You look like the boss,” I tell her.

“The only place I am boss is in my home,” she answers. She adds an hilarious aside about her husband and who wears the pants in the family, something about him giving them up 16 years ago when he married her.

I try to call her a hero and she turns boss on me, pushing me onto the nurse before the compliment is two seconds old.

Nurse Dan administers about 300 shots a day. He says the attitude of the people he injects is universally upbeat.

I ask him if he is surprised there was a vaccine available this soon, and he notes scientists benefitted from baseline information gathered in previous research.

Dan seamlessly injects me, explains everything I need to know and sends me on my way.

I tell him he is my new hero and he turns beet red, embarrassed that what he does is anything special.

The fact is, what he does is special. The same is true for the county detective, the other nurses, the scientists that brought us this vaccine and everybody distributing it.

As I drive home I find myself not listening to the hockey game. I am thinking about these faith-restoring people who embody the real America represented so rarely.

I am thinking about things that have undermined their efforts.

Like politics. The announcement of the vaccine’s availability was made a few days after the election. There is no way the self-proclaimed experts did not know before the election of its coming availability. Why were we not told? Instead we got naysayers telling us it couldn’t be done that quickly and, if it was, they had reservations about it because of who marshaled the operation. Hence the hesitancy to get the vaccine.

Why is Pennsylvania ranked somewhere between 44th and 49th among 50 states in administering the vaccine? The state had nine months to get a distribution plan ready, plenty of time to come up with a centralized registration portal or broader-based network to get the vaccination into arms faster.

Are our political leaders so arrogant about the supremacy of government involvement that they did not understand competitive, private forces would speed the research dramatically?

So scientists – public and private – did their job heroically. Frontline health care workers and volunteers are doing their jobs heroically.

Who’s the weak link?

The politicians who have been busy shutting down schools and restaurants despite no data indicating they could not stay open with proper precautions.

The governor of New York who turned down temporary hospitals provided almost overnight and instead sent endangered people back into nursing homes, likely costing thousands of lives.

The multiple elected leaders who imposed over-the-top restrictions they personally violated, all the while not standing up to groups that fund their elections, crushing the education process of millions of children and the economic survival of thousands of businesses.

None of these politicians has missed a day of pay. And they haven’t missed any opportunity to place blame elsewhere rather than admitting mistakes and correcting them.

If they – unlike the businesses they have abused – are going to get paid, could they at least earn it?

They owe an apology to the people at the clinic, the scientists, nurses and doctors who have worked tirelessly to help all of us, and the parents, children and business people whose lives they upended beyond what was necessary for a year.

Don’t hold your breathe waiting for one.

David Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.

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