LETTER — First responders should get vaccines first

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, January 21, 2021

To The Editor:

The recent announcement that the active faculty and staff of Longwood University would begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations this week appears to have stunned, as well as alarmed, a considerable number of local first responders and citizens.

Although health care workers, long-term care facilities and first responders who provide medical care have been assigned the highest prioritized ranking of 1a, employees of higher education have received a lower categorization by the Virginia Department of Health as Phase 1c vaccine recipients.

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The Longwood administration recently issued a statement that the university is working closely with state and local officials to be helpful however they can in community vaccination efforts. Also, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Robert Nash stated that faculty and staff at Longwood amount to just under 1,000 “potential vectors” of virus in the Prince Edward area who come into contact with many people, including students, throughout their day. “Those people at the greatest risk in that facility are the faculty and staff, and therefore pose the greatest potential threat to spread the virus in our community.”

A considerable number of citizens think such a rationale is perverted and doesn’t pass the “smell test.” If the concept relating to “the greatest potential threat for spreading the virus in the community” served as the core reasoning for moving Longwood University up the vaccine priority access rankings, then all local first responders, which include the Farmville Police Department and the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, would have already received the COVID-19 vaccine. As of the writing of this document, officials of the Farmville Police and Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office indicate vaccinations have not taken place even though requests have been issued.

Without question, all first responder agencies come in contact or have the opportunity to come in contact with the largest number of citizens throughout the day. The danger presented by exposure to the COVID-19 virus is a two-way street for personnel in these agencies, as well as citizens needing assistance. A reasonable assessment of such omission is that the office of the Piedmont Health District is playing Russian Roulette with the health and safety of our local first responders, as well as our local citizens.

Members of the Farmville Town Council and Prince Edward Board of Supervisors would be prudent to conduct an immediate investigation as to why many of our local first responders have not received the COVID-19 vaccination, as well as the re-prioritizing of Longwood faculty and staff.

In these dangerous days of the deadly COVID-19 virus, power in the hands of those with a lack of knowledge, inexperience and/or ego is a guaranteed pathway to deadly failure.

Excellent public administration requires nothing less than such an investigation.

Dr. Robert Banton