Letters to the Editor: Do we need to rethink vaccinating nursing home residents first?

A nurse at UCI Health prepares a COVID-19 vaccine dose.
A nurse at UCI Health prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Orange on Dec. 16.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are being given to front-line healthcare workers and nursing home residents. No one could object to giving the vaccine first to healthcare workers, but the emphasis on nursing home residents needs some thought. Of course elderly people living in congregate settings are at high risk of severe disease, but is vaccinating them right now the best use of these early doses?

First, consider the vectors of this virus — the younger, healthier people who spread it. Reducing infections in this group would decrease transmission, indirectly saving the lives of the vulnerable around them.

Second, consider those whose deaths would have a terrible impact. What about a single parent whose children might be orphaned? Indeed, a resident in a home where the staff have been vaccinated would have less chance of infection than the single parent going to work and to the grocery store. There has been no conversation about this.


Even if we decide that all lives are exactly equally worth saving, we should at least figure out where the vaccine would have the greatest impact on the total death toll. Slowing transmission by inoculating vectors, thereby reducing total case numbers, could be a better bet in the long run. Where is the discussion and study on this problem by our public health officials?

Irene Chen, M.D., Los Angeles


To the editor: A letter writer strikes a chord with the argument that people who deny the seriousness of COVID-19 or refuse to wear masks should be punished by being placed last in line for a vaccine. This kind of argument appeals to our reptilian (Trumpian?) brain.

But I think the argument misses a key point. The vaccine rollout plan is designed to minimize damage caused by the virus. Surely inoculating people who are otherwise likely to spread the disease would help minimize downstream problems such as overwhelmed hospitals and staff.

Those who understand and accept the science already protect ourselves by masking, staying socially distant and remaining home most of the time. We will not spread the virus anywhere near the extent that the deniers do.

I suspect this debate is moot, though. I believe (without evidence) that there is a large overlap between the COVID-19 deniers and the anti-vaccination population.

Stephen Billard, Huntington Beach


To the editor: Articles in The Times’ news sections describe how the catastrophic COVID-19 surge has led to a critical shortage of hospital capacity.

Meanwhile, on the letters page, one of your readers argued that people who ignore public health guidelines by going maskless or gathering with others should go to the end of the line when prioritizing who will receive the vaccine.

Maybe the crisis in our hospitals could be alleviated if such persons were likewise placed at the end of the line in determining who gets properly staffed intensive care unit beds.

Paulette Low, Encino


To the editor: I wonder why the people who are so loudly and adamantly against socialism in the U.S. aren’t up in arms about the government-sponsored Operation Warp Speed project for developing COVID-19 vaccines.

Isn’t that the socialized medicine that they have been railing about for years?

Richard Schmittdiel, Glendale


To the editor: There are quite a number of people who discourage others from getting a COVID-19 vaccine because of how quickly they have been tested and approved compared to other vaccines.

To this, I would say I’d rather take my chances with the vaccine rather than against the coronavirus. Nobody has died because of the clinical trials in the U.S., while the virus has already killed more than 310,000 people.

Ed Trillo, South Gate


To the editor: Has anyone else noticed that a disproportionate number of healthcare workers quoted or interviewed by the media are people of color, immigrants or the children of immigrants?

If our (thankfully outgoing) president and his supporters had their way, many of these heroes would have been bundled up and sent “back to where they came from.”

Phillip Gold, Westlake Village