WAVELENGTHS

Value-added vaccines for all

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For so many people, rolling up their sleeves to receive a greatly awaited stab at the Coronavirus was a no-brainer. It was a most welcome jab in the arm. These various vaccine options did not arrive out of nowhere. Years of intense laboratory research,  accumulated knowledge and discovery, ultimately coalesced in an amazing rollout of medical relief and reassurance. And yet so many people still resist the shot for any number of reasons real and imagined. 
 
Indeed there are risks in all vaccinations. But the science behind it is strong and compelling. The risk-benefit calculus overwhelmingly points to their overall safety with a marginal amount of anomalies and exceptions to its positive outcomes. Getting people beyond vaccine hesitancy is not easy and has led to a strong media campaign along with an unusual mix of material incentives.
 
With all the presented arguments aired and shared around the untold benefits of inoculation, some jurisdictions have seen the need to resort to offering premium rewards for those yet unvaccinated so as to help them cross their self-imposed Rubicon.
 
The creativity of the various medical professionals, related health care agencies, and administrations speaks to the enormity of the challenge at hand. From concert tickets to beer and marijuana, raffles for college tuition and all kinds of swag and creature comforts, the prizes for participating are significant and assumed enticing. And hopefully, these gifts for taking a near painless poke will break the resistance of a great part of the holdouts.
 
It is not unusual in society to offer material benefits to bring the unaffiliated, uninvolved, indifferent, and unconvinced to embrace a given salutary purpose and cause. Private schools, synagogues and churches, and other membership organizations have been known to offer deep discounts to their dues, tariffs, and tuition to convince potential audiences to join their cause. What amazes me, however, is how these significant incentives are reserved for holdouts and are not equally applied and offered to those who stepped up to the plate from the outset.
 
Over my many years in communal work, I have heard many loyalists complain that it is the people on the margins who get the breaks while those deeply involved and committed, who have been paying their fair share for many years, do not qualify. Why is it that the bounty and benefits are easily doled out to the doubtful and reluctant parties with rarely a retroactive loyalty reward being given to the already invested and committed constituencies. It is sad that such a divide is allowed to occur so as to shore up the numbers. 
 
We prayed for some means of ameliorating the devastating effects of the pandemic. The vaccine is a "shot in the arm" in all respects. We should not need these gentle "bribes" to convince the cynics and the skeptics. But necessary as they seem to be, these efforts should then rightfully include those who acted from the outset with zeal, alacrity and responsibility. The common usage of incentives to sway the equivocators in many realms of societal need and useful cultural endeavor usually occur in desperate moments and at the eleventh hour. Perhaps a more equitable and inclusive approach should be considered from the outset. When a situation that involves untold benefits to the masses is met initially with some notable degree of opposition, a level playing field should be considered and created, with equitable benefits for all who have elected to do the right thing.
 
No, it shouldn't take the prospect of a cannabis high or a free beer, baseball tickets and various consumer product discounts to marshal movement in the right direction. It might even be something of a slippery slope when it takes more than a village, but rather a spate of material benefits, to affect the needed outcome of widespread buy-in and embrace of a great communal good. The Rabbis in the Ethics of the Fathers, a Talmudic work that lays out a framework for a "good society", note that "schar mitzvah, mitzvah hee" - "the reward for a good deed is the good deed itself."
 
But obviously, altruism and the common good do not always obtain, and some people need a juicy material push to get with the program. If, however, we can sense from the outset a real need for some kind of gentle arm twisting, we might extend the courtesies to all who act in concert. This way we can save time and energy in our efforts to rally the whole village to the common cause. In the situation at hand let the value added to the vaccine redound to all. This will hopefully reduce reluctance and resistance in short order, accelerate and increase  buy-in, affect the desired outcome toward herd immunity, while  acknowledging and affirming everyone's  responsible decision to take the easy poke; and we as a caring and aching community can reach our needed goal sooner than later.
 
In a more perfect world, the shot alone should hit the spot. Unfortunately in this regard, we are not a monolith even when a scourge such as this Pandemic does not discriminate. So then let us learn from this situation with its obvious pockets of protest, to create a total environment that encourages maximal participation in a program intended to protect and preserve life for all.  

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