This whole COVID vaccine mishigas (per the Chief I’m trying to use more Yiddish) is getting so as you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys.
Above you see Dr. Hasan Gokal of Houston, TX. Until recently he was the medical director for Harris County’s Covid-response team. In that capacity he was put in charge of getting those precious cc’s of vaccine into the arms of local citizens.
On Dec. 29, a mild Tuesday, Dr. Gokal arrived before dawn at a park in the Houston suburb of Humble to supervise a vaccination event intended mostly for emergency workers. In part because of minimal publicity, the pace was slow, with no more than 250 doses administered. But this was the county’s first public event, he said. “We knew there would be hiccups.”
Hiccups are one thing. Drink a glass of water while standing on your head and they’re gone. I promise, try it. What he had on his hands was about to become a major headache.
As the event wound to a conclusion Dr. Gokal found himself with an opened vial containing ten more doses that were turning into a ticking time bomb. You might be aware once those vaccine vials are punctured you have six hours to use them before they go bad.
And as the Boss says, vaccine doses these days ain’t cheap.
Now it’s not like Texas medical authorities didn’t have a plan for this probability. In fact it had been laid out to all doctors and nurses who would be administering the shots. If there was a punctured vial with remaining doses:
The advice was to vaccinate people eligible under the 1(a) category (health care workers and residents in long-term-care facilities), then those under the 1(b) category (people over 65 or with a health condition that increases risk of severe Covid-related illness).
After that the message was: “Just put it in people’s arms. We don’t want any doses to go to waste. Period.”
Faced with the instructions not to let any vaccine go to waste
Dr. Gokal called a Harris County public health official in charge of operations to report his plans to find 10 people to receive the remaining doses. He said he was told, simply: OK.
Dr. Gokal found a hodgepodge of folks who needed and wanted the vax. Some were people he knew, some were friends of friends, and the last was his own wife whose pulmonary sarcoidosis made her eligible for the vaccine. In all he used up the precious vaccine with 15 minutes to spare and after running around the county for close to six hours.
Ten days later he was fired.
The official reason was he administered the vaccine outside the scheduled vaccination event. According to those who were firing him he should have returned the unused vaccine or simply thrown it away. They also said they had questions about the “equity” of who got those last ten shots.
Apparently the officials didn’t like that he gave the shots to people who were friends or friends of friends, literally the only people he could find. That and oh yeah they were brown people with Indian sounding names.
White man says hrumph.
But it gets better.
On January 21, Dr. Gokal’s son opens the front door to their house to find a gaggle of reporters and cameramen screaming for comment on his father’s imminent arrest.
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.”
Fortunately there is at least one sane person in Texas and he happened to be the judge who was shackled with this. He immediately dismissed the case, adding in
“In the number of words usually taken to describe an allegation of retail shoplifting, the State attempts, for the first time, to criminalize a doctor’s documented administration of vaccine doses during a public health emergency,” he wrote. “The Court emphatically rejects this attempted imposition of the criminal law on the professional decisions of a physician.”
Wonder if that would be his opinion in an abortion case. But I digress.
All’s well that ends well? Oh no, this is Texas baby, we don’t cotton to no judge just up and saying we don’t got a case. DA Ogg is now taking this to the next meeting of the grand jury in March. Apparently she thinks this is a game of Cowboys and Indians and she’s out for his scalp.
Meanwhile Dr. Gokal is out of a job and unable to find one because as we all know the accusation is on page one and the dismissal is on page 27. Yeah Texas that’s smart, keep a doctor out of commission in the middle of a pandemic. As the wife (Cruella) has been known to say, “what the f**k is wrong with our healthcare system?”
I’d like to say a little common sense and all of this would have been avoided, but it’s pretty clear this isn’t about common sense. This issue is as clear as brown and white. There is not a chance in hell that if this doctor had been white and the folks who got the “use it or lose it” vaccinations were white we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. Dr. Gokal would be hailed as a hero and praised for his savvy quick thinking. Just like the white doctors and nurses who were in almost the exact same situation in Oregon a couple of weeks ago, time running out on their vaccines, stuck in the snow, and telling other stuck motorists to roll down their windows and roll up their shirtsleeves.
Instead Harris County Texas DA Ogg wants to send him to jail. I guess she’s tired of Florida holding the title as Chief Dumb Ass State in the Union. Hopefully the appropriately named 10cc won’t be singing this for him.