our faith, the covid vaccine, people in jails and prisons

animal farm by george orwell is profound in its simplicity. the most famous quote from the novel is:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

perhaps this quote is more subtle and more true today. the covid pandemic is shining light on global inequities more than ever before. for example, the rationing of health care in western european countries at the beginning of the pandemic was telling. elderly people were left to die when rationing was done.

inequity is played out in different ways given our various cultural frameworks.

now in the advent of the covid vaccines rolling out we will see how some people are more equal than others. of course the world has never seen in our history the massive need for vaccines. each country will have to navigate its way through the chaos. there will be many mistakes made long the way and shifts in ways the shots are allotted. graft, fraud and corruption will affect the distribution too. many people will be duped by people offering a way to “jump the line” for the shot.

it will surprise no one that the covid vaccine is already rolled out in the usa and western europe. other countries such as russia, china and india have approved their own vaccines which may or may have been tested well. poor countries are relying on WHO’s covax program to receive their vaccines— it may take years and countless deaths for them.

for people who live in poverty, indeed “some are more equal than others.”

in the usa, one of the CDC guiding principles for the covid vaccine distribution is: those who are most vulnerable to get the virus ought to receive the vaccine before those whose immune systems and situations put them less at risk.

this post is really a continuation of some previous musings on equity and covid ( https://frarthurcmf.wordpress.com/2020/12/02/equity-and-the-covid-vaccine-distribution/ ). i have been happy to see that there are certain urban areas that are targeting poor communities as priorities for the vaccine distribution. unfortunately, for many counties/states, people of color are not in the priority discussions.

whenever i get back to work as a claretian priest, one of the ministries that i hope to serve is detention ministry (with a restorative justice flavor). when jesus taught in the final judgement, “when i was in prison, you visited me” (matthew 25: 37), my heart jumps. God willing that can be part of my future in ministry. i have always had an eye and ear for those affected by our justice system: offenders, victims, jail/prison staff, families, court workers and others. so many people in the enclosed areas of jails and prisons are extremely vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus. most reasonable people would agree that those in jails and prisons settings ought to get the vaccine before the majority of the general population.

but prioritizing prisoners ahead of most others will not sit well with so many folks. indeed, some people are more equal than others.

it would be consistent with the already dehumanizing nature of our penal system. this is seen in the extreme action of the death penalty: we label those who we kill in the name of the state as “monsters.” this justifies murder in the public’s mind. we ought to kill monsters. this can be seen as a type of public revenge.

this way of thinking can easily trickle down in a poisonous attitude about people in jail/prison and the vaccine: why should they (monstrous “people”) get the shot before us (the good people)? indeed, dehumanization affects our morality.

hopefully, this attitude will take a back seat to the voices of administrators, guards, and staff who will need the vaccine to continue their work safely. the virus is not discriminating. but we are. if these voices did not exist and people in prisons/jail lived in a real bubble, there would be little hope for them and the virus. a few would even celebrate these “monsters” getting killed off away from the public eye. thank the good Lord that most people do not have this extreme attitude. loving others indeed includes our sisters and brothers in detention.

i have prayed this prayer before and i close with it today in light of the covid vaccine distribution:

may the Holy Spirit continue to lead and guide us through this important moment in minimizing the effects of this coronavirus for the safety and health of our sisters and brothers– especially those who are most vulnerable. may we respond well with courage and wisdom to the promptings of the Spirit. may we have the will to do justice and love in action for all.

1 Comment

  1. beccamac2001 says:

    Leave it to you to use the gem from Animal Farm to illuminate the current issue of distribution of vaccines for the covid.
    What a smart move, thank you for the thought provoking post and if you get another comment similar to this, I tried to comment before and it said could not post so I don’t know what I did wrong.
    Have a beautiful day, peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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