Vaccines and the v-Memes

Getting back to my roots – My little buddy and me

So many things are so contentious about COVID, as a thinking person, it wears me out. Though in my younger days, I might have thrived with a bit more conflict. But as I have aged, I count on the exchange of ideas and information, combined with a sense making process (all accurate data must fit together in some kind of a combined narrative) to unearth the more complex narrative around the current crisis. Without that network of knowledge, where all people possess some piece, and level of truth, we as a society swim in a memetic fog. We can’t get to the truth, and subsequent plan of action.

That’s especially true for the current v-Meme vaccine wars that we’ve been engaging in. And it’s hard to know exactly how badly we’re sabotaging ourselves because, once again, we don’t know whether the problem described in this piece is really that bad. After a whole year of both a.) really bad things happening, and b.) event also being blown out of proportion, it’s hard to recalibrate. Is the news media actually telling us the truth this time, or are we in on the memetic feedback loop to reinforce our distrust of fellow citizens and establish even more authoritarianism?

It’s still foggy.

With regards to vaccine distribution, this piece from NBC News is the latest for today. Here’s the scenario from that piece.

A hospital Covid-19 vaccination team shows up at the emergency room to inoculate employees who haven’t received their shots.

Finding just a few, the team is about to leave when an ER doctor suggests they give the remaining doses to vulnerable patients or nonhospital employees. The team refuses, saying that would violate hospital policy and state guidelines.

Incensed, the doctor works his way up the hospital chain of command until he finds an administrator who gives the OK for the team to use up the rest of the doses.

But by the time the doctor tracks down the medical team, its shift is over and, following protocol, whatever doses remained are now in the garbage.

Isolated incident? Not a chance, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told NBC News.

“This kind of thing is pretty rampant,” Jha said. “I have personally heard stories like this from dozens of physician friends in a variety of different states. Hundreds, if not thousands, of doses are getting tossed across the country every day. It’s unbelievable.”

For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to assume Dr. Jha is correct, and we’re dumping unused vaccines, instead of finding ways to distribute them outside the established guidelines. It would be what we would expect from a rigid hierarchy. Breaking rules on distribution and using personal judgment, that requires agency, isn’t allowable even among highly educated/trained physicians. The last thing you’d want these doctors to do is feel empathy toward patients, because the implicit projection of their character is that they’re weak-willed softies, with limited moral bearing. Sheesh.

And the doctors know this projected image, regardless of reality, so they dump the vaccines instead of using them. Because the basic consequence is getting fired (Authoritarian) or being subjected to a long, likely pathological legal-and-punishment process (Legalistic/Absolutistic.) The process IS the punishment, and the doctors know this. Far easier just to take the passive path and let the vaccines go bad, that the social structure is strongly encouraging of, anyway.

Here’s the deal. If there’s a single takeaway from all this for the medical community, and as I’ve said, COVID-19 has really rung society’s bell, memetically testing all of our various systems, it’s that they need to understand that a lot of the behavior in their community is NOT a function of individual judgment gone either right or wrong. Rather, it’s automatic, with little thought of actual consequence. Instead, as long as the doctors color within the lines, then health care workers can just turn on the auto-pilot.

But as I’ve written before, WWII settled once and for all the economic advantage of individual liberty, and associated Performance/Goal-based thinking as being far superior in a crisis than rank fascism. I know a fair number of doctors, and they’re not stupid people. Here’s hoping for a deeper desire for truly understanding why doctors do what they do with regards to healthcare – a path that leads directly to empathetic development of physicians. And a society that actually understands the need for both the larger debate, appropriate rules, and acceptance of risk that will be mandatory for a more highly performing health care system.

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