Homeless Americans should be a vaccination priority

By Anthony Pietrewicz
March 6, 2021

COVID-19 vaccinations should be readily available to anybody who needs it. Whether they need it due to their age, pre-existing conditions or line of work, there should be an openly accessible way for those who need it to get it. With that being said, what can we do about people who need the vaccine but have have a meager chance of getting it? Think of people with impaired mental capacity, people who are incarcerated, people who lack the technology to sign up, people who are homeless.

There are more than half a million homeless people in just the United States alone. According to the CDC they are “a particularly vulnerable group” to the virus, being classified as older males with health complications more often than not. 


Homeless - White Star“Homeless – White Star” by Deadly Sirius is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The common misunderstanding about homeless people is that they are just old guys who got hooked on drugs and threw their lives away. That is a very superficial perspective to have, there is no way all 553,742 homeless Americans could all fit into that uncomplicated characterization.

The reality is much different. Nearly 60,000 families across the United States are among the total half million homeless population. These families are victims of a combination of happenings, ranging from cruel bad luck to unaffordable housing. We can’t write these people off because of how rough life can treat certain people.

When I first thought about if homeless people should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations, I was against it (and in a way I still am). I could have gone on and on ranting about how unproductive it would be to immunize those who offer little to nothing to the greater good of the country. I could have written about how homeless people’s disassociation from society lessens their threat of spreading the virus. I ultimately chose to take a step back and look for reasons that challenge what I believe.

The issue of vaccinating undocumented immigrants mirrors the issue of vaccinating the homeless. Both demand critical thinking to fully comprehend the points of concerns.  Both groups are among those who are looked down upon by some. Many believe undocumented immigrants and people who are homeless commit crimes when in fact both groups commit fewer crimes that the general population.

Homeless on 6th St.
“Homeless on 6th St.” by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

To whom should the United States government primarily allocate the vaccine? Deprived citizens in their home country or those fleeing their own for a new life? It’s a profound moral dilemma that our country’s leaders need to find an answer to. No person’s life is worth more than anybody else’s but but the supply for the time being is limited.

My personal take on the whole matter is subject to change due to how many ways it can be looked at. My opinion will always be that if the vaccine is available, then it should be given to those in need. Whether it be the homeless or  immigrants, every person is worthy of fair treatment.

Human dignity must be respected, no matter where a person comes from or what they have done. In 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine should be a basic right and privilege to those seeking it. Instead of looking down upon people who are different than us getting the vaccine, we should be acknowledging our oneness as human beings, appreciating the prospering of various groups.

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Anthony Pietrewicz

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