This is the most infuriating news story I have read in a while, and it comes, surprisingly, from the New York Times. The protagonist is Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Houston physician. He had a limited quantity of the Moderna covid vaccine to distribute, and rather than throw some of it away, he found qualified patients to receive it. For that, he was fired from his job and criminally prosecuted.
The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours.
Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.
After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.
For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 — a shun-worthy misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe.
Dr. Gokal was charged by a Democratic Party prosecutor in Houston. The charge was so absurd that it was dismissed by a disbelieving judge, but the prosecutor “vowed to present the matter to a grand jury.”
You should read the whole story, if you can get past the Times paywall. (Protip: clear your cache of Times cookies.) This is another sign of the times:
The officials maintained that he had violated protocol and should have returned the remaining doses to the office or thrown them away, the doctor recalled. He also said that one of the officials startled him by questioning the lack of “equity” among those he had vaccinated.
“Equity” doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. “Evil” is a pretty good shorthand translation.
“Are you suggesting that there were too many Indian names in that group?” Dr. Gokal said he asked.
Exactly, he said he was told.
In today’s fallen world, being fired and charged with a crime is by no means the end of the ordeal:
On Jan. 21, about two weeks after the doctor’s termination, a friend called to say that a local reporter had just tweeted about him. At that very moment, one of his three children answered the door to bright lights and a thrust microphone. Shaken, the 16-year-old boy closed the door and said, “Dad, there are people out there with cameras.”
This was how Dr. Gokal learned that he had been charged with stealing vaccine doses.
Harris County’s district attorney, Kim Ogg, had just issued a news release that afternoon with the headline: “Fired Harris County Health Doctor Charged With Stealing Vial Of Covid-19 Vaccine.”
The next person who needs to be fired is Harris County’s District Attorney.
More broadly, it has been widely noted that red states are consistently doing a better job of getting people vaccinated than blue states. This apparently is due to the fact that they concentrate on vaccinations, not “equity,” and don’t hesitate to use private companies like pharmacies to help spread the medicine. The fact that Houston’s medical establishment and county attorney’s office thought it was better to throw vaccine away than to use it to vaccinate people exemplifies how blue state (or here, blue county) ideology gets in the way of public health.