Tuesday, February 9, 2021

My Vaccine Adventure

By Madeleine Kando

I got my first Covid19 vaccine yesterday at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, home of the New England Patriots. It is an enormous structure visible from the highway, long before the turn-off. Impressive as it is, Gilette is one of the smaller stadiums in the country. There are 30 of them, all ideal candidates to be converted into mass vaccination sites.

The huge parking lot was half empty that day, since it was after one of those Nor’easters that dump vast amounts of snow on New England. A gigantic electronic board showed which appointments were being admitted. Masked and with my appointment confirmation in hand, I was led to a booth where they checked my ID, gave me a fresh mask and asked me to answer a bunch of questions. I was told to follow a blue line to an escalator, at the top of which a nice uniformed and masked gentleman made sure I didn’t deviate from the footprints on the carpet. After a mere 5 minutes at a large ‘wait here’ sign, a vaccinator waved me over. Another brief ID verification, a short chit chat while I got unobtrusively jabbed in the shoulder and boom, done. 20 minutes total.

Outside, in the cold air, it struck me how much organizational skill is required to pull off such a mass vaccination effort. And this is just one location in one state in just one country. Who put the footmarks on the floor? Who placed the guard rails up? Who made the signs? Why this entrance and not another one? Is there a vaccination God somewhere that said ‘let there be vaccination sites: and there were vaccination sites’?

It’s easy for you to be impressed, I hear you say. You get first dibs. What about the rest of us? What about the slow roll-out, the lack of staff to get the vaccine into people’s arms? What about all the vaccine batches sitting on shelves going bad?

True, the US, the giant that it is, is slow to wake up, but once it had its first cup of coffee, it rapidly gains speed. As of this writing, 11% of Americans have been vaccinated. The EU is at 3.9%. Still, at this speed it will take a hell of a long time to get to herd immunity. So why not use every available large structure as a mass vaccination site? Why not use military barracks, large box stores, churches, airplane hangars and warehouse storage facilities? Gilette stadium could rev up its vaccination capacity 10 fold within weeks.

The NFL has generously offered to make all its stadiums accessible for mass vaccinations (take that generosity with a grain of salt, since most of them have been built with public funds). After our civilization is dead and buried, future tourists will pay big bucks to take pictures of these NFL stadiums’ skeletal remains, just like the ruins of Roman amphitheaters of today. But instead of saying: ‘This is where hundreds of gladiators got torn to shreds’, these future tourists will say: ‘This is where thousands of lives got saved’.

Everything in the vaccination process has to fit together, like a giant puzzle.

1. Every time you get vaccinated, your information is entered in your state’s Immunization Registry that keeps also keeps track of supply and demand.

2. The IZ Gateway connects all these State Registries, so that Florida knows whether Vermont already gave you your first vaccine. The VTrckS tracks demand, and tells companies to ship them to where they are supposed to go.

3. The VAMS is the branch that actually puts the vaccine in your arm. It is part of the CDC, but it doesn’t work very well, so states are using other systems, like the one Gilette uses, ‘CIC-Health’, that put the vaccine in my arm.

4. The Covid 19 Data Lake eats up all the above information and spits it out in a digested form that then gets fed into a software platform called Tiberius (used by the Defense Department). Tiberius is the eyes and ears of the whole affair.

As you can see, this is a typical ‘public/private partnership’. So do we pay a price for our ‘pragmatic’ approach to fighting the virus? We are certainly doing better than the EU, but at what cost?

One of the reasons the EU is so behind on vaccinations is that they bargained (which takes time) for lower prices, all in the name of solidarity with their poorer member countries. My twin sister, who lives in Spain, will pay less for the vaccine, but won’t get vaccinated until this summer.

The other question is: Who controls our health care information? Tiberius was developed by a data mining company named Palantir, that also developed a system to track illegal immigration and is connected to the notorious Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook privacy scandal. The founder of Palantir, Peter Thiel, is a strong Libertarian Trump supporter and considers paying taxes as ‘theft’.

Ironically, the country that holds its individualism and privacy as sacred, is now giving up much of its information over to the private industry. Is it worth it?

It is a hard trade-off. It reminds of the story of the Picture of Dorian Grey. Do we trade our health for our collective ownership of our own information? Does Palantir and data mining companies like it, that are now essential to fighting the virus, have us over a barrel? Only time will tell. leave comment here

Source: Where’s the COVID-19 vaccine? Who’s been vaccinated? Here's how we'll know.