My friends lied and got the covid vaccine. How bogus is their excuse?
March 14, 2021 6:35 AM   Subscribe

My longtime friends live in NYC. They went to a vaccine center and lied on a form. They claimed to have comorbidities when they do not. They both got the covid vaccine. They defended themselves by saying there are plenty of available vaccine appointments in pharmacies throughout NYC. As a result, they claim that they didn't take vaccine away from anyone. This seems obviously illogical to me, since they were not in the next tranche of eligible people. How do I gauge whether they were knowingly selfish, versus had genuinely convinced themselves that their action was harmless?

I've known this couple for years, and this act was surprising and out of character. They are empathetic and humble. They do a lot of volunteering for voter rights and environmental protection.

I feel that intentions matter. If my friends purposefully decided to put others at risk to benefit themselves, that is worse than if they somehow believed that they weren't hurting anyone.

This just happened a few days ago. They claim that NYC has plenty of vaccine supply nowadays, and that they wouldn't have done it in January when there were shortages.

I sent them a list of NYC public-facing nonprofit workers and essential workers who only become eligible next week. I said that these are the people they cut in front of. They reiterated that there is plenty of extra vaccine in pharmacies and if others chose not to take the available vaccine, it's fine for the two of them to take it. They sent me screenshots of the available pharmacy appointments, as justification of their action.

They are in a low-risk category for covid. They are in their 40s, healthy, no kids, financially very well-off, and do not have to interact in-person with anyone.

I'm deciding whether to end the friendship over this. Here are my questions:

1. Intentions matter. How do I gauge whether they were decent people who had actually convinced themselves that their action didn't hurt anyone? If they lied while knowing full well that they were hurting higher-risk people, I will end the friendship.

2. The wife said that she felt guilty and had mixed feelings, but she still decided to do it anyway. Let's say that in the future, she claims that she reflected on it and feels truly sorry. How can I tell whether she's genuinely contrite versus just doing lip service to save our friendship?

3. The husband is unrepentant. He says he did the right thing because "the more people who get vaccinated, the better". If it were just him, I'd end the friendship. My primary friendship is with the wife. In the potential future scenario where she's truly sorry and he's not sorry at all, would there be any point to still trying to be friends with the wife? It seems difficult to have a friendship with her if her husband and I are furious with each other. But it also seems unfair to punish her for his actions.
posted by sandwich to Human Relations (109 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
1. See my responses below.

2. So, if "the wife felt guilty and had mixed feelings but decided to do it anyway", I think that pretty much means that she "lied knowing full well they were hurting other people". There is no foolproof way to know if someone "feels truly sorry".

3. The husband seems to be the one having an easier time of convincing himself that "their action didn't hurt anyone". If what you care the most about is their intentions then IMO the wife is the person who went against her own good judgement and knowingly hurt people. So it sounds like you are maybe more concerned about who shows the most genuine contrition rather than who was knowingly being a jerk.

I have so much more to say about this behavior (I mean, are these people white? If so, do these people know about the racial disparities that result in people who aren't white being unable to get access to the vaccine? I could go on) but I am trying to simply answer your question. Good luck navigating this, I am appalled by these people.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:55 AM on March 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

"How do I gauge whether they were decent people who had actually convinced themselves that their action didn't hurt anyone? If they lied while knowing full well that they were hurting higher-risk people, I will end the friendship."

This seems sort of impossible to judge. Because, frankly, the only way I could imagine they genuinely "didn't know" they were hurting people would be to actively delude themselves. I mean, lying on the form is a pretty clear indication they knew they were doing something they shouldn't be. Making a mistake on a form? Genuinely misunderstanding the eligibility? That's one thing, but this seems like another.

THAT SAID....uh, do you need to make a decision about this? Can you not just say, "I'm really disappointed in you and want to just cool our friendship down for a few months" or something.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 6:56 AM on March 14, 2021 [22 favorites]

Intentions matter

But not as much as outcomes, which is why if someone dies while you're committing a crime, you can get charged with murder even if it was never your intention for someone to die.

They sent me screenshots of the available pharmacy appointments, as justification of their action.

Then they should have just gone to the pharmacy.

Your friends cut in line, and pushed 2 more needy people out. What you do with that is up to you.
posted by underclocked at 6:58 AM on March 14, 2021 [19 favorites]

The pandemic has certainly created rifts between people that otherwise would have been friendly if not friends, often due to motivated reasoning. Until now, we've mostly seen that in people casting doubt on the existence of a real pandemic. Clearly, as vaccines become more widely available, we're entering a new phase of motivated reasoning. Which is what I think this is.

1. People are complicated, and otherwise-standup people have weaknesses. You have no way to gauge their innermost thoughts, but you know them better than a bunch of Internet strangers.

2. See #1.

3. Put the ball in her court. She'll be in the middle of that conflict and need to figure out how to navigate it.
posted by adamrice at 6:58 AM on March 14, 2021 [10 favorites]

I don't live in NY City, but I do live in NY State, and a letter from their doctor would be required for this. I'll be getting my first shot on Tuesday, and I'm required to bring the letter my doctor sent me. So unless the people at the vaccine location weren't strict about this, your friends would have had to either forge two letters, or convince their doctors to give them those letters.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:09 AM on March 14, 2021

I sent them a list of NYC public-facing nonprofit workers and essential workers who only become eligible next week. I said that these are the people they cut in front of.

I see a problem with your logic here. If the workers on your list aren't eligible to get the vaccine until next week, then your friends didn't take spots that could otherwise have gone to those workers. Even if your friends hadn't gone and taken two spots, none of the workers who are going to be eligible next week could have gone and filled them. They would have been told to wait until next week. The only people who could have filled those spots are people who are currently considered eligible.

It's true that your friends got vaccinated ahead of people who need the vaccine more than they do. But it's not clear to me that by getting vaccinated they prevented anyone else from getting vaccinated.
posted by Redstart at 7:11 AM on March 14, 2021 [31 favorites]

Passed by a line at a pop up vaccine center in my neighborhood in Manhattan yesterday and was APPALLED at how overwhelmingly white and privileged the crowd was.

Also there are not “readily available” appointments. Most of the time when you hit the websites there’s no appointments. When big blocks of appointments get released they are snapped up immediately, and by a lot of privileged people acting on selfish entitlement. It’s gross and I hate how angry it makes me.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:21 AM on March 14, 2021 [22 favorites]

Well, you can never know what people believe, only what they tell you they believe.

You could choose to believe them, but then again they also have told you (it seems?) that they are comfortable lying when it suits their purposes.

You don't need anyone's permission or even any good reason to back off on a friendship (or any relationship) other than "I want to".

If you want to press the issue hoping that they can somehow talk their way back into your good graces, maybe ask them why you should believe what they say about one thing when they tell you they lie about another.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:22 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't live in NY City, but I do live in NY State, and a letter from their doctor would be required for this. I'll be getting my first shot on Tuesday, and I'm required to bring the letter my doctor sent me.

This is not true. Self-attestation at the vaccine site is accepted in lieu of a doctor’s note, as it should be, because forcing impoverished and possibly uninsured people to take time off work for a possibly ruinously expensive doctor’s appointment before getting a vaccine would be monstrously inequitable.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:28 AM on March 14, 2021 [112 favorites]

I've seen people say that in specific parts of NYC (not Manhattan) there are vaccination clinics restricted to people who live in the area where supply is exceeding demand, unlike the way it is in the rest of the US. I do not know if this is still the case, or if this was the situation your friends walked into, but if it was that specific situation, it would seem somewhat OK or at least not a friendship-ending situation to me.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:29 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Actually in NYC you only need to sign an attestation that you have a co-morbidity and from what I’ve heard the sites aren’t always checking. Also, in general you can’t know from looking at a line of people what their health circumstances are or why they’re eligible.

I think what your friends did was wrong and I feel sorry for the wife being in a position where she may have compromised her morals based on pressure from her husband. I’m not sure I’d end the friendship with them but it would absolutely change how I thought about both of them. In my opinion it’s unethical to jump the line (unless it’s shots going to waste at the end of the day), we’re all close to being able to get the shots.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:31 AM on March 14, 2021 [10 favorites]

Crisis reveals character. Be wary if you should ever be in a position of relying on their good judgement and grace under pressure. For me, this would be a significant impediment to wanting to be around them.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:35 AM on March 14, 2021 [17 favorites]

Warning: this will probably be an unpopular opinion. It sounds like you were just waiting for a reason to cut off these or any other friends who committed some gray area faux pas. Moralising does not equal being moral and you seem to be confounding the two.

I dont think that what your friends did is nearly as egregious as you make it out to be and I say this as someone who will be waiting for a while to become eligible for a vaccine. They didn’t bribe, pay or otherwise use some special privilege to get the vaccine, most states rely on an honor system to determine who qualifies and there is a reason for that. Also, it looks like by early summer most adults will be eligible to get a shot regardless, so they’re not dooming someone else to go without a vaccine for an uncertain long time as you seem so eager to believe.

This is a disease we still know very little about, there are 80 year olds who got over it with mild cold symptoms and there are teenagers who have died, so neither you nor anyone else is a moral authority on “who needs it most”. People have been dealing with tremendous anxiety and uncertainty for over a year now and everyone’s nerves are frayed at this point, we’re all desperate for some relief and sense of normalcy. I understand that states had to prioritize by certain criteria given the limited early supplies but we can argue all day about whether that criteria made sense or were the right ones, and right now we’re past the initially stage of vaccine scarcity.

Your friend is also right about the fact that one more vaccinated person is one more vaccinated person who adds to herd immunity. You’re thinking this in very white and black terms and are willing to view as moral monsters people who by your own admission volunteer to do a lot of good in their daily lives. I think that if these people haven’t given you reason before to doubt their judgement or moral compass, you should consider a more charitable interpretation of their behavior.

Unless in your own life you’re a daily beacon of morality and always have the right answer to life’s complicated and grey-area questions then you’re being extremely quick at trying to get a moral one-up on your friends. Very few people haven’t taken a beating so to speak from this pandemic, be it a mental, emotional, physical or financial one and it doesn’t help anyone to play moral police.
posted by Riverside at 7:37 AM on March 14, 2021 [182 favorites]

I'm high risk and my perspective is the more people get vaccinated, the safer it is for high risk people. I can see how someone might see lots of appointments and all these stories about vaccine doses being wasted and so many anti-vaxxers refusing them... and reasonably think they aren't taking it away from someone else, and that they're doing good for their community. I think there's a chance your friends did believe that, though I'm a trusting person.

I don't know if, in your state, they were correct in that assessment. In mine, they might be--we're wasting 1.8k+ shots, there's tons of vaccine appointments (but people with comorbidities aren't eligible yet), and so many people are refusing to get vaccinated. I don't think that's the process they should have gone through--they should've been calling and ask to have any unused doses at the end of the day. But if your question is "did my friends have good intentions and bad judgement on how to act on them"--sure, it's possible. That's what they're telling you, and it's not implausible for them to think that. The question is do you trust your friends? Do you think they're lying to you? That's not something I think we can tell you. And if the answer is "good intentions, bad actions" then you have to decide how you want to handle that, as it's not obviously as clear cut as "bad intentions, bad actions."

YMMV but as a high risk person who does a lot of advocacy in the community, I'd just be glad someone got vaccinated. I have a lot of frustration about how the vaccine rollout is being handled, but I'm currently saving my ire for the system rather than individual people. But I might feel different if I was desperately trying to get an appointment (I'm vaccinated under health care worker eligibility, though my partner is not because WI vaccination isn't open to people with comorbidities, so they can't even try to get an appointment).
posted by brook horse at 7:38 AM on March 14, 2021 [37 favorites]

Showbiz_liz and spacewarp13, thanks for the correction.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:44 AM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is one of those situations where the Kantian "what if everyone behaved this way" rule of thumb comes in handy. If everyone lied and signed up for appointments, they'd be filling appointments that should have gone to people in the prioritized group. You can't run a vaccine prioritization scheme if everyone behaves like they did. The only reason it sort of works is if almost all non-prioritized people don't lie.

I don't suppose they thought it through so far, but this is the logical endpoint if everyone decides that they personally can jump the queue. That's why there's so much social stigma around queue-jumping.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2021 [57 favorites]

As of a week and a half ago, pharmacy appointments in NYC were ONLY for seniors and teachers. It took me a few days of constantly refreshing TurboVax before I was able to make an appointment at a site where people with comorbidities were allowed. Currently TurboVax is showing ONE non-location limited appointment slot, and two more that are limited to Queens residents.

They are straight up wrong about supply and appointment availability.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2021 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: All these answers are very helpful. They are thought-provoking and I really look forward to any more perspectives.
uh, do you need to make a decision about this? Can you not just say, "I'm really disappointed in you and want to just cool our friendship down for a few months" or something.
These friends and I have weekly zoom chats and were making post-covid plans together. The husband asked me to drop the vaccine subject and go on as though it never happened. But I feel a loss of trust. So I need to decide how to act.

In the past, a close friend wanted to end a friendship with me but told me that they just wanted to "cool down for a few months". I actually found it more painful to have it dragged out than if they just made a clean break so I could mentally move on. So I was trying to apply the golden rule and just be straightforward if I don't see hope of the friendship continuing as before.
posted by sandwich at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

They defended themselves by saying there are plenty of available vaccine appointments in pharmacies throughout NYC. As a result, they claim that they didn't take vaccine away from anyone

Umm, so here's the thing. As mollymayhem says, if you have one of the eligible jobs or conditions but you're under age 65, in New York state, you couldn't get the vaccine at a pharmacy as of a couple weeks ago at least—not at Rite Aid or Walgreens, at least, because I asked them directly and they said they were complying with a state mandate. Health authorities had at that time directed pharmacies to only vaccinate those over that age, as I understand it, even though folks like myself with specific jobs and conditions are eligible in the current cohorts.

But get the vaccine, I had to ask a friend for tips about how best to find open appointments, because I had found none for the first week I was eligible. I refreshed that site repeatedly for 10 minutes the day I got my appointment, and I'd about given up, turned my music back on, when a single appointment, in Staten Island, popped up on refresh. I felt so lucky I tweeted about it. I shared tips with eligible friends from marginalized backgrounds; one chose not to get it yet, while another managed to get a shot in his neighborhood.

Another friend, who works with kids in person, to the best of my knowledge hasn't yet been able to get a vaccine appointment. She was eligible before I was! It's not true that there are plenty of vaccine appointments available to people under age 65 and anyone who wants it can get it here.

And yeah, when I got my first vaccine, I wasn't required to show my proof, but I sure did agonize over it beforehand because I didn't know that. I checked with my doctor (who I'm lucky to have) and made sure I signed that online NYS form and had proof on my phone of what should be obvious enough (my specific condition). I was so anxious at the time, since they didn't seem to have all the allergies in their system that I'd entered in already, so had to state like a half-dozen out loud before getting the shot. So I didn't think about it until afterward.

I have heard of open appointments in specific areas being available when vaccine will otherwise go to waste, as others have said, but that's not really what this sounds like. Bottom line, to me, if they made appointments through the systems everyone is swarming like fish to get appointments through, not something more specific and local, and they weren't eligible, to the point that they knowingly lied on a form about it, they're wholly unethical and no I don't think I'd want to be their friend anymore.

Yeah, as many people as possible need to get vaccinated eventually. But even eligible people are all looking at each other sideways and asking how (even though you really shouldn't do that) when one of us manages to get an appointment. And yeah, to allude to something said above, you know what, I'm totally privileged, and I work from home, but I'm actually eligible and I don't regret taking my shot, because my specific condition results in significant medical discrimination I've detailed elsewhere, and the isolation and inactivity have only worsened my condition. People in my neighborhood are packed in and not all compliant with masking, and it's kept me inside a lot; at least one friend with really severe autoimmune conditions ended up leaving the city for Kansas, even after getting her dream job here, because of those factors. Yeah, the eligibility categories feel kind of arbitrary, and yeah, there should be a better way of doing this that's more fair, but the system we have does ask you to behave honorably and not take appointments you're not entitled to, under $1,000 penalty for lying, if I recall correctly.

tl;dr: Taking an appointment you don't need right now quite likely does put actual New York residents at risk, because there is such high demand that not even folks at high risk have all been able to get appointments. And if I found out one of my friends did that, well, I'd really be rethinking our friendship.
posted by limeonaire at 7:54 AM on March 14, 2021 [38 favorites]

I might wait to see what they do once they’re fully vaccinated. Do they start gallivanting around town without a mask and dining in at restaurants? That would highlight the selfishness of this and make me fade out the friendship. OTOH, maybe they want to visit an elderly relative or someone who is higher risk and so their reason for getting the vaccine is more thoughtful/considerate than it initially appeared (still not great that they jumped the line but there might be more to the story).
posted by sleepingwithcats at 7:58 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

I have a friend who claims to have done this, and I've decided to let it go. (I say "claims" because I think it's possible that she has a pre-existing condition but doesn't want to say so. And she fairly recently quit smoking, which means that she doesn't qualify as a smoker, but I think it's possible that she's still at increased risk. In my state, at least, the definition of pre-existing condition is extremely expansive and a bit arbitrary, which makes it tempting to cheat if you're in the small group of adults who don't currently qualify.) My friend has serious mental health issues and lives alone, and I've been really worried about how pandemic isolation is affecting her. I'm secretly sort of glad that she cheated, because I've been more worried about her than I have about a lot of people who fit into the arbitrary pre-existing condition guidelines. I don't know if that makes me as bad as her!

I guess I think it's worth thinking about how this fits in the context of everything else that you know about your friends. Does this seem like a one-time lapse, or when you think about it, do you realize that it fits a pattern? I don't think I would end a friendship over one ethical lapse, but it might make consider whether it's really a one-time thing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:00 AM on March 14, 2021 [14 favorites]

I just effectively ended a friendship (in my mind, anyway) due to exactly the same thing. I didn't even ask for justification because what would it be? "I wanted to do it, so I did it, and I didn't think about anyone but myself" is effectively what it boils down to for me. And lying in the process. No. Stepping in front of people far more at risk, who are finally supposed to be prioritized for once- it is so shocking and unethical to me.
posted by bquarters at 8:02 AM on March 14, 2021 [10 favorites]

I also know people who have jumped the line in NYC (though maybe for slightly more justifiable reasons in their cases, but still). I was shocked to hear it. I think it's 100% wrong. It's possible eligibility will open up to everyone in April, and people should wait for their turn. But on the other hand, I've been disappointed in people for a lot of reasons over the pandemic, like socializing during lockdown, etc. I don't feel like I should cut all of them off. I decided to let this go, personally.
posted by pinochiette at 8:05 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

This is a very fluid situation with infinite gray areas, and there's no shortage of moral rationalizations available for him or for you. With that in mind, I would be more inclined to end the friendship because the husband has asked you to drop the topic and won't let you begin to heal the breach of trust by discussing it openly and honestly, and not because of the specific action they took.
posted by thejoshu at 8:06 AM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

I actually do have one of those co-morbidities. I have just now been confirmed as having had it, and as soon as I became eligible - last week - I tried getting an appointment. The soonest appointment I have been able to make was in MAY.

Tell your friends that you actually KNOW someone IN NEW YORK who actually IS eligible right now, and whose place they almost certainly just took. In fact, ask them if they would be willing to actually set me up with one of those "multiple pharmacy appointments" they claim are available, because I've been beaten to the punch for days now. (And add in the fact that my needing to recover from a broken knee is making it doubly hard for me to travel far outside my neighborhood.)

I'm perfectly serious. Since they took my spot in line and they claim there are other slots, tell them to find ME one those slots.

....They most likely will not. But if it helps to humanize the people they cut in front of, why not give it a shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2021 [80 favorites]

How do I gauge whether they were knowingly selfish, versus had genuinely convinced themselves that their action was harmless?

People are complex, and at different levels, both these things can be true at once. Or, put another way - the act of deciding to convince yourself that your action was harmless, starts out with knowing that you're being selfish and having to convince yourself otherwise, no?
posted by penguin pie at 8:14 AM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

I would be inclined to end the friendship too, because they knowingly lied to skip the queue, and are gaslighting you about it. That said, the pandemic has brought out some strange responses in people, either being overly fearly and justifying things they wouldn't do under normal circumstances, or being in denial and doing things which I would consider overly risky (like mass gatherings to celebrate a soccer team winning, which were too big for the police to disperse without their being a riot). If I judged what the behaviour of everyone based on my pre-covid standards, that might rule a lot of people out as actual or potential friends. However, I can only say I have immensely increased respect for friends who have followed the rules faithfully, even if it means only having video dates with boyfriends, and immensely less respect for people such as these friends who have gamed the system to get ahead.
posted by AuroraSky at 8:14 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

this act was surprising and out of character

Are you sure?
posted by unknowncommand at 8:15 AM on March 14, 2021 [11 favorites]

I feel a loss of trust

That's all you need, then. You are under no obligation to be friends, or even friendly, with people you do not trust.
posted by basalganglia at 8:16 AM on March 14, 2021 [11 favorites]

They didn’t bribe, pay or otherwise use some special privilege to get the vaccine, most states rely on an honor system to determine who qualifies and there is a reason for that. Also, it looks like by early summer most adults will be eligible to get a shot regardless

They LIED. I want to emphasize that. They made a conscious, lucid decision when they made made the appointment, when they left the house, and in particular when they checked the box on the form that they knew was inaccurate. And to what end? So they could go out and socialize more? So they could go without masks? So they could brag about it to friends? (They obviously didn't have any trouble telling you about what they did.)

I think their ultimate intentions here don't really matter... the fact is they put their own selfish desires above others to the point that they lied. I put these people in the same boat as the assholes who try to jump lines at venues with assigned seats - what for? It's not like someone is going to steal your seat. You want to get on the plane first? There is the whole 'so there will be room for my bags in the bin' argument, but there again you are taking opportunity away from someone else who rightly should have said opportunity. Selfishness and this "More Me Now" bullshit is the scourge of society. But I digress.

It's one thing to try to use the situation to your advantage - call around, ask if a pharmacy has extra doses, wait in line in a store in case they have extra (a chain of pharmacies in MN was reported to be providing leftover vaccines on a given day to anyone in the store who wanted them)... certainly don't let those go to waste. But to purposely lie about it in advance to gain, what... a few weeks(?) advantage over others....what else are they going to lie about to gain advantage in life? Gain an advantage over you? So they saw a lot of appointments. Maybe the just opened them up on that day. Maybe the people who were eligible were largely at work and couldn't make the appointment until later in the day. Fuck these people.
posted by SquidLips at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2021 [32 favorites]

I'm in California, and I just logged into my health care system's website to find a letter in my account. The letter says:
"Based on the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) vaccine administration prioritization policy, as of March 15, you may be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you feel you meet one of the criteria listed below, you can schedule a vaccine appointment"

This is confusing, as I'm 99% sure I do not meet any of those criteria.

But there's a part of me which is thinking "maybe I do? after all, why would my doctor give me that letter otherwise?"

Is it posisble similar confusion exists in New York?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

1. You know them best. You know them to be decent, humble, and empathetic. Do you think they would skip two people with hypertension and diabetes if they saw them waiting in person? If they knew for a fact that waiting would save a life, would they wait? You can never know for sure although you are the best judge of their hearts and minds since you know them.

2. If she has genuine remorse in the future, she doesn't owe anybody an apology except for the two people who tried to sign up that day but couldn't, if that is the scenario. We do not know.

3. People will justify their actions. One of the husband's justifications is true -- "the more people who get the vaccine the better." People will stick by their spouse. It would be difficult to remain friends while having disdain for the husband. If someone had disdain or disliked my husband, I would probably drop them.

I want my husband, age 49 to get the vaccine as soon as possible, but he won't jump the line even though he has an opportunity. He is full of integrity and would never think of it. I would never expect or want him to jump the line and I am not excusing lying, still the vaccine process is imperfect. I (age 48, healthy, healthcare worker) should not have received the vaccine before my patients who are 65 and older. I know a few young people who received the vaccine at the end of the day when there were leftover doses. The young people could have searched around for a more deserving candidate or taken the opportunity. Save your neighbor or save yourself. I can understand both perspectives.
posted by loveandhappiness at 8:19 AM on March 14, 2021

Is it posisble similar confusion exists in New York?

In a word, no. The list is very clear as to the conditions you have to have to qualify.
posted by slkinsey at 8:21 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Most people are not courageous. Most people will just get on the life raft as long as they don’t have to personally kick the other person into the water. I wouldn’t judge too harshly for it, especially in a situation where our fear of The Thing is very different and ranges from abstract concern to paralysis. For rich NYC residents, there are a million lifestyle decisions with arguably greater impact on lost years of life Elsewhere.

In something of an analogy, the hospital where I work was fairly dysfunctional in rationing vaccine appointments. I literally intubate people with COVID and was offered a very late appointment, after a lot of WFH people (who admittedly were older). The next week when my WFH young research staff were offered it, I told them to take it. I was ok with that because 1. Community transmission was quite high 2. the queue is so chaotic and 3. because the freezer to arms operation was running so inefficiently due to no shows etc. The state literally gets more supply by demonstrating it vaccinated more people, and vaccine in a freezer benefits nobody.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:22 AM on March 14, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I think it might be good to generalize this question. Like, can you as a fellow human being make a clear judgement on whether this was 3 bad points (akin to getting out of a parking ticket) or 100 bad points (akin to leaving an accident scene) -- likely not.

Everyone answering is trying to help but you will probably find yourself drawn to the answers that speak to you anyway, just as your friends selected their course based on some kind of rationalization.

The real question is - your friends did something you are really uncomfortable with, and lost your trust. How do you proceed?

I've been through this a few times, and what I suggest is that you take a couple of weeks to think about it. Depending on how honest you want to be you can tell them that you need a couple of weeks to process their actions, or you can just tell them you're really busy/have Zoom fatigue right now and need to take a break.

Because in a 20- or 30- year friendship most of us have moments, some small and some large, where our friends make bad decisions (and this was, no question, a bad decision any way you slice it because they lied to jump the queue.) And most of us also have had to end friendships because we realized our friends weren't in a place we wanted to be with them.

Whether you take two weeks or not, I don't think it needs to be a big dramatic thing. You can say you're reassessing priorities and will be in touch later, and then either be in touch or not. Your desire to spare them pain is kind, but just remember - they created this situation, both by lying to jump the line and telling you about it.

Now for me personally...this wouldn't be a dealbreaker in terms of like, "can we be at the same group barbecues together?" But I wouldn't travel with, mesh finances with, or pursue a beloved project with, people who have behaved the way you describe. They are perhaps the kind of people who will walk first out of a forest fire or drive ahead of the tsunami, because they seem to have very keen senses of self-preservation (even in their lifestyle). But they are not the kind of people who will think through Kant's moral imperative, and if you are the impediment to their desires, they may or may not step over you in the future.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:25 AM on March 14, 2021 [51 favorites]

> I'm deciding whether to end the friendship over this.

I would say that you are fully justified in ending the friendship. I faced a similar situation recently. A co-worker asked me if I had been vaccinated yet. I answered that I'm not nearly old enough. She casually hinted to me that my body mass index (BMI) would qualify me for a co-morbidity. She managed to offend me for two different reasons. I already knew her to be a "not-very-nice" person, so this didn't surprise me. But if I had been friends with her, I would have been very disturbed by her comments and would consider breaking off the friendship.
posted by akk2014 at 8:32 AM on March 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

The vaccine situation is very fluid and complicated. You hear people say there aren't any open appointments for weeks, but at the same time there are places that only ever schedule appointments for the next few days, not weeks in advance. More vaccines are coming all the time now. There have been vaccines thrown out because no one was there to take them. So there have regularly been open appointments, if you know where and when to look for them.

Think about it this way: your friends were desperate enough to lie about comorbidities to get vaccinated. I don't live in NYC, but I know people who live there that are not in any of the priority groups. A lot of people feel desperate, and have been afraid to leave their apartments for over a year now, even those that have been living relatively privileged WFH lives during this time. They feel like they're being left in the dark about when they will be able to make an appointment to get their shot, and they feel like so many ways are being created to figure out how to give it to everyone but them.

Your friends aren't invincible. It's possible that even without known comorbidities they may have gotten very ill or died from COVID. I'm not saying what they did was right or that you shouldn't end the friendship over it, but it's something to consider during what's been an unimaginably difficult time for many people.
posted by wondermouse at 8:41 AM on March 14, 2021 [20 favorites]

She casually hinted to me that my body mass index (BMI) would qualify me for a co-morbidity. She managed to offend me for two different reasons

Just to be clear, BMI is a totally legit reason to get it (especially since it is often a symptom, rather than a cause, of underlying conditions such as I have that also put people more at risk). The only reason I didn't mention that's why I got it in this thread so far is that I was worried it would become contentious, that someone would say I didn't really deserve to get it. So I guess I'm here to defend myself and you from your own judgment here on that one point, if that does apply to you, and say if you do meet that criterion, don't discount it.

Even if overall the science behind it is super suspect (attributing supposed causation for a number of conditions to obesity), the way people who are visibly larger are discriminated against by medical professionals is a very real phenomenon that puts us at risk, and that's actually what the available data reflects when we talk about worse health outcomes, and specifically COVID-19 outcomes.

That said, your colleague shouldn't be commenting on your body and that part is offensive for sure.
posted by limeonaire at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2021 [54 favorites]

Their sense, rightly or wrongly, was that at this moment in your area there is more supply than demand unless you go around eligibility rules, so they went around eligibility rules.

Is this a) interpreting evidence according to convenience to them and b) acting in their self-interest? Probably so. Is it immoral? Maybe not. I think you’d have some public health experts saying rollouts are challenging to get right and the more shots in arms the better.

Me personally, I’d call it a gray area and I wouldn’t lose friends over it in this stage of a pandemic.
posted by vunder at 8:50 AM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

And to what end? So they could go out and socialize more? So they could go without masks? So they could brag about it to friends?

Maybe they got it... in order to... not die?

Like I actually don’t know how I would react if one of my friends did this, but this comment is a shockingly uncharitable interpretation of “why someone would want to be vaccinated against a potentially deadly horrible disease that is still spreading uncontrolled in their city.”
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:57 AM on March 14, 2021 [73 favorites]

Maybe it's because of the FPP on the Blue, but I am reminded of the aggregate white collar crime statistics in What the Bagel Man Saw. The husband here has convinced himself that he was committing a victimless crime, and he took his wife along with him. They took a temporarily scarce resource, but because they didn't personally see the people from whom they took it, and because the scarcity will eventually stop being a problem, they didn't think of themselves as creating lasting harm. The harm here happened more in the aggregate than at the individual level, but it's really difficult to put a value on it. And just because the slots they took are anonymous that doesn't mean that the eligible people from whom they took those slots, or the elevated risks those people face, weren't real.

But also, vaccine doses really have been going to waste because of inefficiencies in the distribution system and people missing appointments, and whatever. I think lying about comorbidities to jump the line is shitty, but I don't think waiting for a leftover dose is. Would you end the friendship if you found out they were just standing in line outside a vaccination site for a chance at a day's leftover doses? Personally I'd probably tell them what they did was shitty (and it sounds like you already have) but I don't know that I'd unfriend them over it on the spot. It would probably make me less trusting of them in general, though, so maybe the long term effect would be that the friendship would wane, even if I didn't cut it off on the spot. It's hard to say.
posted by fedward at 9:01 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Everyone has had a really hard year. I'm giving people a pass for desperately wanting the vaccine - of course they do! And I do see some validity in people taking spots they aren't technically eligible for balancing out the inefficiency inherent to the system (no-shows, etc). I could understand cutting off these friends for what they did, but I think you should ask yourself if doing so will actually make you feel better (for me, it would not). If cutting them off is not actually going to make you feel better, I think you should just try to make peace with what a terrible year this is and all the terrible choices it has pushed people to make.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:07 AM on March 14, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: The ethics of the vaccine on a global scale are incredibly suspect to begin with. Certain countries have better access, certain smaller divisions within those countries have better access, and certain people within those divisions have better access still. I can partake in as much moral pearl-clutching as I want, but even as someone who will get the vaccine relatively late from a US standpoint I am a person who will undoubtedly be receiving a shot or shots that could be going to someone needs it more somewhere in the world, due to age, comorbidities, racial injustice, poverty, whatever.

Regardless of what happens in your neck of the woods, the global haves will be safer than the global have-nots. I'm not going to skip my local lines, but I'm sure as hell going to be skipping what would and should be the global ones if there were justice. I'd wager most people in this thread are in the same boat, so it feels like throwing stones from a glass house.
posted by papayaninja at 9:08 AM on March 14, 2021 [37 favorites]

I wouldn't want to be friends with people who are that selfish. Yuck.
posted by SageTrail at 9:08 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear, BMI is a totally legit reason to get it (especially since it is often a symptom, rather than a cause, of underlying conditions such as I have that also put people more at risk). The only reason I didn't mention that's why I got it in this thread so far is that I was worried it would become contentious, that someone would say I didn't really deserve to get it.

There was an Atlantic article recently about the secrecy and judgment around vaccine access that I found really interesting and seems very applicable to this question, and it includes the BMI example among others.

One of the many things that makes the morality of all this so ambiguous is that access is determined locally, so the same person can be eligible in one place and ineligible in another. Definitions of comorbidities vary (as do requirements to provide documentation or not). Alaska has made vaccines available to everyone over 16 who lives or works there; other states will be as well in the very near future. Meanwhile, some other places (like where I live, and it sounds like NY is similar) seem to be incrementing very slowly through the prioritization layers, and I am really sympathetic to finding that beyond frustrating. (That is all in addition to the global inequality in access, which is just gross.) I know multiple people who were low-risk but got the vaccine really early simply because of where they work -- that is great for overall herd immunity and I am really happy for them personally, but in the context of also being told that things are scarce and prioritizations need to be followed lest moral judgment ensue, there is some dissonance.

My takeaway is that it has been a terrible year, and most people are doing about the best that they can manage. I'm sympathetic to someone who bends the rules out of a desire to protect their family, without necessarily wanting to fully condone it. You should do whatever makes you the most happy and comfortable in terms of continuing the relationship or not, but I suspect that in hindsight, years from now, this transgression might not seem as terrible as it seems right now.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:15 AM on March 14, 2021 [19 favorites]

Best answer: I think this is a hard situation. To your question: yes, they absolutely lied, and absolutely took the vaccine from someone else who needed it more. I also know people in NYC who are at much more risk of death, including my mother, a cancer survivor, who has not been able to get an appointment for a vaccine yet.

I think your question: did they do it intentionally knowing they'd be hurting people, or did they believe they wouldn't be hurting people, is kind of a false one though. Of course they convinced themselves that they wouldn't be hurting people in order to do what they wanted, just like every person who does something wrong convinces themselves that they're either not doing wrong or that they needed it more and it's somehow justified.

If they are white, there are some racialized assumptions there as well; that they are the important ones, that saving their own lives matters more than saving other people's because they deserve it. And it is behavior like theirs all over that is meaning that Black and Latinx people who are dying far more often from this disease are having trouble getting the vaccine. I hear it all over from multiple friends of color: white, well-off people with enough time to prowl the sites are swarming poor neighborhoods and getting the appointments, even before you add in the factor of lying.

But I also think that it is hard, extremely hard, to ask someone to potentially die for the right thing. I think, as someone who has been in many situations where the shadow of death loomed particularly large, that you absolutely see who people are made of in those circumstances, at their core, when they are pared down and in danger, but also that it is very common for people to bargain, to lie, to tell themselves excuses for whatever they're doing to put death from the door. There is a reason we honor those who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others with the name of 'hero' - because it is a somewhat rare thing. Not everyone is capable of doing the right thing when everything inside them scrabbles and pulls at them and desperately attempts to coax them otherwise.

You say your friends are kind and compassionate, ethical. This is where I will say that it is easier to do kind and compassionate things if you are privileged , if all your Maslow needs are taken care of. It turns out, at the end of the day, that your friends are not compassionate on a bone-deep level when the chips are down. You must make your own decisions on this: it is likely that there are also other friends you have who are doing this and not telling you about it, or who would do it if they knew they could get away with it.

I will also point out that within the context of a marriage there can be some gendered pressures: it seems like the wife has guilt and the husband does not. My guess is that the husband is the one who led the way and pushed for the wife to do it, and she did some internal calculus about whether her marriage could survive her taking a hard stance. That may also inform your decisionmaking about friendship; many people do unethical things as a result of pressure from their partners who can absolutely make their lives miserable if they choose.
posted by corb at 9:15 AM on March 14, 2021 [49 favorites]

Would you end the friendship if you found out they were just standing in line outside a vaccination site for a chance at a day's leftover doses?

This is the rub for me -- if they had lied to you and said they'd just waited at a pharmacy for leftover doses, would you be having the same concerns? Standing in line for leftovers may seem more virtuous because those were going to get wasted, but the effect is the same. There were two doses that went to your "undeserving" friends instead of someone you deem more deserving. Is that lie more OK?
Vaccine eligibility varies wildly when you're looking across state lines. It's possible your friends would qualify for a for real in one state, but not another. Does that still make them undeserving?
posted by shesdeadimalive at 9:21 AM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think they suck for this but also that it's okay to be friends with people who suck. You're not god, you don't have to make final judgments about people's character.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:25 AM on March 14, 2021 [29 favorites]

I think you should end this friendship, as you are clearly looking for a reason to do so. You seem to have spent far more mental energy than necessary ruminating on someone else’s choices. Your question also sounds extremely judgmental and I think you should remove yourself from this relationship for your friend’s sake. They deserve a friend who is not obsessively judging them behind their backs for making choices about their own health and safety in a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.
posted by gnutron at 9:28 AM on March 14, 2021 [14 favorites]

Best answer:
Vaccine eligibility varies wildly when you're looking across state lines. It's possible your friends would qualify for a for real in one state, but not another. Does that still make them undeserving?
The question isn't whether they deserve the vaccine: it's whether they thought they were entitled to jump ahead in line. The line might have been different in another state, but I'm not sure that's relevant. It's believing that you're special and therefore the rules don't apply to you, which is something that privileged people in the US are often inclined to do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2021 [20 favorites]

Selfish is as selfish does.

There is no doubt they "cheated" by jumping the queue. Them bringing up "amount" of supposed harm is just post-hoc justification.

Sadly, they are not the only ones. A Canadian couple apparently bribed someone at a remote village which was getting the vaccine first and claimed to be employees of a local hotel, but authorities got suspicious when they presented HealthCanada cards that stated their residences are not in the area.

Husband's logic doesn't even make sense, assuming the transcription is correct. He may have said "the more people who get vaccinated, the better", but what he really MEANT was "if they vaccinate someone, it may as well be me, I don't give a F*** about waiting my turn." That is his entitledness speaking, not logic.

The queue exists for a reason: get all the high-risk people vaccinated first to minimize casualties... Because they have a high risk of dying from catching COVID! Yes, it's just two doses, but that's two doses that won't go to people who need it.

Or to put it even more plainly... THEY HAVE NO HONOR by abusing the honor system where vaccine sites are not checking their claims.

I agree that the husband is probably the instigator and the wife decided NOT to make this issue "the hill to die on", metamorphically.
posted by kschang at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2021 [14 favorites]

First, probably not related to your decision with your (ex?) friends, there are absolutely appointments available in NYC, NYS. I am in Westchester County. I got my first shot at the Javits Center. On or about March 4th, the State released over 1,000 appointments at Javits and about half as many at the Westchester County center. I was able to grab an appointment for me and then for 4 friends who are all eligible. (I called my Doctor within 15 minutes and they sent me a letter attesting to my eligibility through their online portal in minutes. I did bring that letter to the Javits. Not once was it looked at although I was asked if I take blood thinners. I do.) After hearing that I had secured appointments for others, many people from all walks of life asked me to help. I did. I am very familiar with the system here in the NYC and suburbs area. There are appointments available. The state run sites are the hardest to get because as soon as they release, people who use bots and similar technology are right on them. There are now hundreds of smaller sites. There are sites that restrict signup to those who live within certain zip codes so that the local, often underserved population can get an appointment. If appointment availability is your moral measuring stick, they are available. But, I hope it is not your measuring stick.

Second, I am not sure that that matters to your moral dilemma. Is your bright line putting others at risk? I know friends that drive like they are running moonshine putting all sorts of people on the road at potential risk. Or maybe they text while driving. I am not a big believer in moral or ethical grey areas. Usually, it is right or wrong. Having said that, anxiety over this is quite real and maybe their mental health was in question without it.

If it were me, I would make my decision on my own simple smell test. If you think what they did is so egregious that you are willing to end what sounds like a close friendship over, then do it. Asking a very biased subset of internet users what the right thing to do is, is quite frankly, to me, odd. My moral compass is not based on other's opinions or which way the wind is blowing.
posted by AugustWest at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2021 [15 favorites]

You get to do whatever you need to do in regard to keeping friends who have done something that you feel is morally reprehensible. You don't need anyone else's permission or input, so if you need to cut people off because they were operating in a moral gray area, you get to do that.

That said, what I have learned as I have gotten older is that you never really know what is going on in someone else's life. People conceal all kinds of things, even from close friends: medical conditions, abusive relationship dynamics, debilitating anxiety, child losses, and on and on. You just never know. The wife has to live with a man who is unrepentant about jumping the line; nobody knows if he badgered her endlessly to do the same or what the consequences would be if she had held off on getting the vaccine.

Again, do what you need to do. But if you expect that none of your friends are going to screw up, make bad choices, or ever do anything that you see as ethically questionable, you may eventually find yourself very much alone. This has been a terrible year for everyone--for them, for you--and the temptation to rage at individuals can be overwhelming because we tend to think of individuals driving this catastrophe and not of huge systemic failures getting us here in the first place.
posted by corey flood at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2021 [17 favorites]

I do want to mention for people saying they know people who can't get appointments--please, please have them double-check every possible site. I looked at WI's vaccine appointments today through various places--none of the pharmacies have any appointments, but there's tons of appointments through my local hospital or community vaccination sites. I don't know the situation in NYC, but based on AugustWest's post, it could be a matter of some people looking at some sites and seeing no appointments, and other people looking at other sites and seeing lots of appointments. I have no idea what's causing this divide, but I want to make sure people are aware of it.
posted by brook horse at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: You are 100% free to think they are lower-quality people, him more so. I plan to judge people on their pandemic behavior for decades to come, because it's a great barometer for who will or won't actively try to kill me in a future crisis, and the man in this equation is for sure on my "no good comes to him from me ever again" list. These are not people whose values align with mine, and that is always a good enough reason to avoid them.

I share your conflict over what to do about your actual friend, though. If her partner is that much of an asshole, her practical choices may have been somewhat limited. And for what it's worth I know a number of marriages/partnerships that have a large ticking clock on them for when it's safe enough to leave, so I'd be less likely to formally declare any endings right now on the grounds that she may be in some trouble.

Also I don't think adults should declare friendship endings in almost all cases. If you want to chill out a friendship, you just do it. No flouncing, no soap opera denouncements. Just retire quietly, or retreat back to a distance that feels better to you - maybe that is just acquaintanceship. I don't think you should cut yourself off from socializing with other people just because they'll be on the Zoom, but you do not owe them or at least him any more courtesy than you would extend a stranger under the circumstances.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:47 AM on March 14, 2021 [26 favorites]

I have learned that there are many opportunities to filter your friends via purity tests, and if you do this too much you end up later in life with zero friends.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2021 [58 favorites]

My situation is pretty close to Empress Callipygos - I just recently became eligible but so far the only appointment I have been able to find was in May, at Javits Center. I did sign up but I intend to continue looking for something sooner, and also sign up with my local Walgreen's for any leftovers, but come on, don't say that appointments are easy to get in NYC!

I don't agree with people who say your friends were smoothing out the inefficiencies in the system; they were contributing to making the inefficiencies worse. I'm angry at your friends because they lied, and they didn't even need to - they could have signed up at their local Walgreens or Duane Reade to get leftover vaccines if they were that desperate. I know a few people who've gotten vaccines that way, and I'm totally fine with it because they didn't lie or cheat and they did use up vaccines that would otherwise go to waste, and yes they are contributing to herd immunity.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:03 AM on March 14, 2021 [22 favorites]

My work friend claimed to have done this to jump the line. Talking to another friend later it was simply he was eligible for it because of age, but had lied to all of us about his age, so now had to lie about how he was able to get the vaccine. Apparently stealing medicine from needy people is cooler than being a few years older than the rest of us. These idiot friends of yours think this is OK, it's OK for you to decide if you want to be friends with people that think this is OK.
posted by wwax at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm going to agree with the people who said this is a gray area and also... most of us are sad and tired and scared and not acting our best right now. So if these people are normally kind, giving people, I would not end the friendship over this.

The list of who is eligible is so arbitrary right now, I feel. When vaccines first became available, I was super indignant about my friends who were eligible by dint of their profession but... not at risk, per se. (Yes they were teachers, but they only taught remotely, etc) As time went by, I took a more charitable stance towards them because the more people that are vaccinated, the better.
posted by silverstatue at 10:20 AM on March 14, 2021 [13 favorites]

It's weird reading this, living in Georgia. In the space of a few weeks, it went from only healthcare and 65+ to "If you're slightly overweight, you can get one! Good luck finding one though!" There's a whole series of websites you have to navigate (each pharmacy chain has one, the state has one, and then there are the FEMA sites). The digital divide is what keeps a lot of people from finding shots.
posted by heathrowga at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Is it posisble similar confusion exists in New York?

In a word, no. The list is very clear as to the conditions you have to have to qualify.

I disagree with this—the list includes a lot of large categories such as "pulmonary diseases including but not limited to..." or "immunocompromised state including but not limited to..." which leave a lot of room for uncertainty. I know several people with autoimmune disorders who are genuinely struggling over whether they should be considered eligible. One was encouraged to by his doctor, so he made an appointment, and I think he was not wrong to because this is a weird new disease and we don't know how it interacts with an autoimmune condition—but his condition is not explicitly listed in the eligibility requirements and in fact the actual list of requirements says "immunocompromised" which is not exactly the same. (Elsewhere autoimmune disorders are listed as eligible.) Another person I know got it due to chronic migraines, which her doctor felt qualified as a neurological condition; I wouldn't have made that connection myself and I'm not sure chronic migraines would increase risk, but also I am NOT a doctor and also this disease has only existed for a year and change so we really don't know. I would not appoint myself judge and jury over anyone who had a reasonable claim to eligibility, because the list is very much not specific.

It's also not the case, however, that there are tons of appointments, because the large sites seem to have moved to second-dose only until they've worked through the people who've gotten the first dose. (I'm not even seeing overnight Javits appointments anymore, and those JUST opened up.) As several people pointed out, pharmacy appointments are still limited to over 65 and some specific jobs.

So in short: If they thought they might be eligible and decided to come down on the side of "yes," I think that's both a reasonable uncertainty and a reasonable decision given the circumstances. If they simply thought there was more than enough vaccine to go around, that's wrong and yes, they took a space they weren't entitled to. The latter sounds more likely but there's always the possibility that they don't want to discuss their medical shit with you.
posted by babelfish at 10:26 AM on March 14, 2021 [10 favorites]

I caught an interesting interview last week on the radio with a philosophy professor that covered vaccine shame and other ethical questions. His fundamental point was that there should be broader universal shame at structural disparities of what constitutes "health care" in the United States, and the urge to direct individualised / comparative shame is symptomatic of this. He specifically has a problem with people calling in favours when appointments are in short supply, but that's slightly different from taking advantage of a distribution model based upon self-attestation.

(The UK rollout assigned people to priority groups with the assistance of NHS medical records, and is now going strictly by age. You can't easily lie about your age.)

My gut sense is that you should just opt out of the friendship for a while -- until you've been vaccinated yourself -- and see where things lie. Maybe you'll want to pick up your post-Covid planning, maybe not so much.
posted by holgate at 10:28 AM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm just wondering if they explicitly said, "We don't have any comorbidities but just went for it" or if they just didn't share their potential comorbidities with you? Because I'm struggling to see how you found out - like, for me, I would never ask someone "why" they got the vaccine because I would assume there was a medical issue. But if they're like bragging about how they got the vaccine by lying that would bother me a lot.
posted by superlibby at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2021 [23 favorites]

I don't know what to say on the ethics of the situation. Yeah, they did wrong. However, the system also let them get away with it, as it were. Appointment getting is incredibly inconsistent and crazy everywhere and who the hell knows. It sounds like the husband was the instigator and doesn't care, the wife feels guilt. Factor all of that into your decision, as it were. I don't feel inclined to argue that you save the friendship or end it. If you will always think of these people as horrible from now on, then end it now. If the husband is asking you to pretend that everything's okay and you CANNOT, then end it now. I absolutely get your reasons why this decision has to be made once and for all and has to be made NOW without waiting.

I am in the category that silverstatue mentioned: I was eligible for my profession alone in my state starting in mid-February--literally anyone who works in it is eligible here, even though I am at home. I felt bad about it. But a friend of mine early retired from our workplace in January at age 64. If she'd just stayed for another month or two, she could have been eligible! Imagine that feeling! Now she's not even eligible until everyone else is. When she got on me--rather forcibly--about it, that's when I did it, even though the ethics of it felt a bit dicey to me. But The Ethicist at the NYT said it was okay to go when you can, so I did. And I admit I said to my friend, "All they did was check my work ID at the pharmacy. You could most likely get away with getting a shot if you want to." I don't know if she would do it or not, we haven't discussed it since.

I would say that if this is out of character for them, as opposed to they have a history of jerky behavior, I would cut them a bit more slack, because of what corb said below:

But I also think that it is hard, extremely hard, to ask someone to potentially die for the right thing. .... Not everyone is capable of doing the right thing when everything inside them scrabbles and pulls at them and desperately attempts to coax them otherwise.

I can easily see them wondering, "What happens if we wait our turn until June and catch it in the meantime somehow?" We all hear stories in the media about people who hardly ever went out except for groceries and got it, I just read a story today about people getting it at this time and feeling bad that they got it when vaccines now exist. Getting a vaccine is literal life and death now, and well, that might have changed their normal ethical behavior when the stakes were that high. It's not great, but I can think of worse shit out there in pandemics than this that's more harmful.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:34 AM on March 14, 2021 [6 favorites]

Jumping a line is selfish and entitled behavior, whether it be a line at a sandwich counter or the line for vaccines. But I personally wouldn't end a friendship over this. Like others have pointed out, the vaccine rollout has included wasted shots, and there is a wide range of who qualifies between states, which can be frustrating to people. And the hunt for a vaccine can dramatically shift pretty quickly - my elderly parents found an appointment after a friend gave them a tip as to which hospital to call, and when they arrived there was no line, nurses were just waiting around to give people the vaccine. And yet when my parents told some friends about this a few days later, their friends couldn't get appointments - that source that seemed to have so much excess had already dried up.

To me, this is much less selfish than people who refused to wear masks, held a "small" party during the pandemic, went out to restaurants regularly as soon as they opened, etc. Yes, it's not good, and if you expect your friends to be morally impeccable, then I guess you shouldn't be friends with these people- but in the grand scheme of things I'd mostly let this go.
posted by coffeecat at 10:35 AM on March 14, 2021 [18 favorites]

A couple of random points:

1. Greetings from Canada, where our vaccination rate is 1/3 America’s, partially because America is sitting on tens of millions of doses, and because they refuse to export any doses at this point. Point is, there’s a lot of budding in line going on here. Some forms appear to be more or less acceptable than others. (Some of this is state sanctioned! Here in Ontario, teachers, who are mostly teaching in class, are not as high on the priority list as they are in some US states.) When you come up on the eligibility list, there will be someone right across the border from you here in Ontario who will likely have a better claim to it than you. But you’ll take it anyways and be right to do so, because the vaccine protects you and the people in your community you encounter.

This couple is taking the place of two other people on the list, essentially for the time it takes for the couple to be eligible by the usual channels. Given the rollout so far, this amounts to something like 4-8 weeks.

2. Seems like things would get pretty lonely if we all ended friendships based on these modest moral failings. People are flawed, they fail to act according to their ideals. Would you have your friends all hold you to such a standard of behavior? Take your own moral inventory. Have you received more generosity from others than you intend to extend to them?
posted by thenormshow at 10:36 AM on March 14, 2021 [18 favorites]

You can judge someone else's ethical lapses, so long as you do so fairly. For example, you can ding them for lying to get a vaccine they weren't yet eligible for, but you must also credit them for getting a vaccination and thus being less likely to burden the healthcare system by getting ill, or give the disease to someone else, etc., etc. It's up to you do calculate the relative costs and benefits, and decide how things equal out.

You are also free to stop being friends with someone over an ethical lapse on their part, so long as you are comfortable with someone doing the same to you. If you're criticizing someone else severely for doing something wrong, I assume you've lived a perfect life with no poor decisions?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:40 AM on March 14, 2021 [9 favorites]

You can judge someone else's ethical lapses, so long as you do so fairly....You are also free to stop being friends with someone over an ethical lapse on their part, so long as you are comfortable with someone doing the same to you.

Except...this isn't how feelings work, and being friends is a relationship and a feeling, not Ethical Bingo.

In the human world, we all fail 100% of the time. Some of us try harder than others I guess, or in more comprehensible ways. I'm easy-going about some things (SUV ownership) and less easy-going about other things (I have put a lifetime friendship, like sibling-level, on hiatus because my friend spanked her kids repeatedly as a main source of discipline and also used sarcasm and shaming.)

If the OP's feelings of trust and community are changed, then they are. It's really NOT the OP's responsibility to be the Ethics Judge of the Universe, just to decide who to put their energies into.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2021 [21 favorites]

I would end the friendship over this. These people have revealed their true character and they wouldn't be ones I would want to voluntarily associate with. If they were just acquaintances then I guess they could continue to be acquaintances but I don't know if there's a pathway from close friend to acquaintance so they'd just become people I used to know.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm just wondering if they explicitly said, "We don't have any comorbidities but just went for it"

Yes, they said that. Last week they were interested in waiting at Walgreens at end of day for excess supply. I found out how to do it from a NYC friend and sent them a map and instructions. A few days ago, they texted me, "Hooray! We got vaccinated!" I said, "Oh, so the instructions for waiting at Walgreens worked?" They said, "No, we found one vaccination center that doesn't require a doctor's letter, so we went and claimed to have comorbidities!" I said, "Wait, you lied?" They said, "Yes. It feels so good to be vaccinated! They didn't require any proof of comorbidities."

The husband said he has no guilt. He said "If others aren't going to take advantage of vaccine opportunities, I sure will." The wife said she "had mixed feelings but didn't feel too bad, and was more afraid of getting caught."

It's useful to hear that asking to cool things down for a while isn't stringing them along. As I mentioned, I had a prior experience that gave me the opposite impression.

I'd already asked them for space, before writing this question. The wife asked to do a video chat next week to discuss things, which is why I felt a pressure to figure out how I feel before that video chat.

Reading these answers are helpful. It dawned on me that actually all the volunteering is done by the wife. The husband has only helped out with volunteering once or twice. It's really hard for me to figure out if they both wanted to do it, or if the husband pressured the wife.

I was questioning myself on whether I was right to feel less trust, especially after the husband insisted that he was right. I felt like my reduced trust wasn't "enough" to justify cooling off the friendship. So I was trying to mentally figure out the morality of the situation, because that felt more validated. It was helpful to get the reminder that it's fine to make decisions based solely on my feelings of higher or lower trust (I already knew this logically but I needed to feel it emotionally).

The answers saying I'm too judgmental and that I should cut my friends off as a favor to them (because who needs a friend like me) are pretty painful to read. But I appreciate the reminder that there's often more behind the scenes and that we're all fallible, and the pandemic has made it even more so.

This thread also made me more appreciative of my friends who have shown great morality. One friend signed up for an excess vaccine appointment and then found out it was only supposed to be for disadvantaged groups (it didn't say so on the link originally), and he canceled his appointment. Another friend has been volunteering to help senior citizens get vaccinated, without any expectation of reward.

I am very grateful to everyone chiming in.
posted by sandwich at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2021 [28 favorites]

Somebody I know revealed to me after I got them an appointment that they're undergoing fertility treatments that have failed to date, and are so happy to be vaccinated before the next round. You just don't know what people are going through!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't end a friendship over this, but that's because I'm in bizarro-NY where it seems like everyone around me is smugly *refusing * to get the vaccine or even mask up properly, so somebody doing something unethical to get the shot would be a refreshing change of pace.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:36 AM on March 14, 2021 [9 favorites]

My situation is pretty close to Empress Callipygos - I just recently became eligible but so far the only appointment I have been able to find was in May, at Javits Center. I did sign up but I intend to continue looking for something sooner, and also sign up with my local Walgreen's for any leftovers, but come on, don't say that appointments are easy to get in NYC!

I think maybe you're not looking in the right places? I booked a same-day appointment for someone this week easily, and I've found that with minimal persistence there is plenty of availability for NYC residents. As cakelite said above, don't just look at the NYS site, look specifically at the NYC site which has far more appointments available.

I definitely don't think your friends behaved well. It is not cool to abuse the self-certification process in this way. But I also think that NYC right now does in fact have significant availability of vaccine and NYC residents who are having a hard time getting appointments are being hampered by a system that is not easy to navigate more than a lack of actual availability. If it were me, I would probably let this one go if I really cared about these people, but just be aware that they are the kind of people who will break the rules if it's convenient for them to do so and perhaps not the most ethical of your friends.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:40 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think everyone is stretched very thin right now, and instead of making any final decisions now you should take a step back from your friends and then re-assess how you feel a few months down the road when it's likely that there will be more vaccination parity in your social circle than perhaps there is now. I would tell your friend that you don't want to have a video chat specifically to hash this out, as I don't think it's likely that will be a productive conversation or leave you feeling like anything has been resolved.

It is good and normal want to feel a certain level of respect for your friends and adjust your friendship accordingly when you lose some of that respect. But if I can offer a different way of looking at it, it's very unusual to be presented with as many thorny ethical dilemmas as we have this past year. Speaking as someone who has been privately quite judgmental of others throughout this whole thing (half as a coping mechanism and half because I can be a judgy asshole like that), I think it's a good time to start thinking about what lapses you can work towards understanding and putting behind you. You don't have to think that all COVID-related ethical failings are created equal - I personally feel more judgmental towards those I know who took risks in the pre-vaccine days than I do about those who fudged vaccine eligibility, but you may feel completely the opposite.

The point is that very few people are going to come out with a completely clean record, including those of us who are inclined to dispense these kinds of judgments freely as though we're any particular moral authority - because we're not. I think your real question here is not "How do I assess how bogus their excuse is?" but "Is this a lapse I can live with?" That will be easier to answer a bit down the road.
posted by superfluousm at 11:47 AM on March 14, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: You don't need to and shouldn't feel bad for judging your friends. It's normal, it's how we as humans decide who it's safe and desirable to depend on. Anyone who imagines they aren't constantly being judged on everything they do/wear/eat/read etc. by everyone they come in contact with, is kidding themselves.

I personally hate hypocrisy. I'd think it was fine to wait outside a clinic for an unused vacine, but lying about your eligibility is a shitty thing to do. I wouldn't dump these friends, but I'd really reign it back. They'd probably decide I was judging them (I was!)and end the friendship themselves. That would be fine by me.

Having said that, I am someone who sometimes wishes I had more close friends. I can't though. People suck.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2021 [17 favorites]

The husband said he has no guilt. He said "If others aren't going to take advantage of vaccine opportunities, I sure will."

That's some bullshit. Others are 'taking advantage' by standing in line and waiting their turn. He jumped on an opportunity that should not have existed. It only existed because (probably because of a lack of time/resources) he was not asked to prove his words.

He says he did the right thing because "the more people who get vaccinated, the better".

That's bullshit too. He took someone elses place and not a single extra person got vaccinated. Just a different person.

I would not want to deal with him in the future. I would stop considering him a friend.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2021 [15 favorites]

Another vote for dumping these people because they're liars, but lying is always a deal breaker for me. If people are willing to lie to get something they want, how can you ever trust them?

Also, I agree that these people seem to be kind and compassionate from a place of privilege, when it's convenient for them. The statement, "If others aren't going to take advantage of vaccine opportunities, I sure will," seems revealing.

Yes, we are all tired and scared and sick of all of this. But most of us still choose to behave like decent human beings. Your friends have thrown decency out the window in a situation that, for them, is not dire.
posted by FencingGal at 12:21 PM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Would I dump these people? Idk, would probably depend on the nature of our friendship. But I'd think a *whole* lot less of them. I can't believe how many people seem to be giving them the benefit of the doubt here. They flat out lied.

I don't know what to say on the ethics of the situation. Yeah, they did wrong. However, the system also let them get away with it, as it were.

Right, because the more hoops you make people jump through in this type of situation, the more it ends up hurting people who are the most vulnerable. That's doesn't mean is A okay to take advantage of the honor system.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2021 [14 favorites]

Right, because the more hoops you make people jump through in this type of situation, the more it ends up hurting people who are the most vulnerable. That's doesn't mean is A okay to take advantage of the honor system.

And the more people who successfully game the system, the more pressure there will be to make people jump through hoops to stop people from gaming the system. The best way to kill an honor system is to abuse it.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2021 [27 favorites]

A point of consideration that may or may not be relevant:

I am eligible for, and have already gotten, the vaccine. My personal risk is practically the lowest physically possible.

I feel like there's an assumption in this moral calculus that the vaccine rollout is "optimal", for whatever way you choose to define optimal. Personally I don't think I should have been eligible for the vaccine. I don't know anything about vaccine supply. I just know I was eligible so I got it. There's certainly the possibility that I took the place of someone who was more at risk than me.

Maybe they broke the rules, but what relation is there between that and people getting sick, if that's the moral issue here? I haven't the slightest clue so I feel like I can't judge anybody on it.

For disclosure I find your whole attitude kinda baffling in that this seems like a making a Mt. Everest out of a molehill situation to me, so that's probably coloring my opinion a tad.
posted by ToddBurson at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2021 [22 favorites]

I feel like it's indisputable that falsifying documents for personal advantage is unethical and borderline criminal (but will never be prosecuted). It is absolutely a difficult thing to quantify the harm. One in ten thousand chance they killed someone, one in one hundred thousand? Depends where we are on the rollout and who they stole the shot from, someone 70+, someone who comes into contact with many individuals per day at work?

My thing is that I would be frank with a friend that this was a very asshole thing to do and that they lost a lot of my respect and trust, but that I've done things in my life that I'm not proud of that risked harm to others around me (driving over 100MPH on the highway in my case). If we can both live with that going forward fine. If they want me to pretend what they did was okay or right as opposed to forgivable, that's never going to happen.

Still, I prefer people who cut in line for the vaccine to those who refuse to mask up.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2021 [8 favorites]

According to the CDC website, as of this writing there were 532,000 deaths out of 29.22 million cases. That is a morbidity rate of 1.8%. I fully support the vaccine efforts, wearing a mask and social distancing, but the vaccine is unlikely to change the percentage of people who die from a case very much. It will supposedly keep the number of cases down. A good thing.

It is a very fluid situation. One day there are no appointments and the next there are cancellations and it is easy to get one. Getting appointments at the smaller sites or the ones that restrict by zip code in NYC is not that difficult as of about a week ago. DeBlasio has done a decent job of late of making sure there are vax sites in all the undeserved parts of the city. Manhattan, below 125th street is hard to get an appointment. The outer boroughs and upper Manhattan are opening up.

If your friends got the appointment weeks in advance, then they likely took a spot from someone who was eligible. If they got one that day or the next day or two, those are appointments that were likely to go unfilled.

It is not as clear cut as they were not eligible, got a shot and therefore took someone else's shot.

I have called the hotline at 8:00am almost every day for the last two weeks, and there are often cancellations, one off appointments available at the big sites. Jones Beach, Aquaduct, the Yonkers site, they all have appointments if you call frequently. Even Javits will give you an appointment time say out to May now. Just now, I cancelled two appointments I arranged for people for mid April because they were able to get a local shot much much sooner. I assume that those appointments will be filled within an hour.

The husband sounds like a piece of work, but it is not the getting of an appointment that would bother me, it is the thought to get an appointment that is the violation. If they followed the initial plan and waited outside at the end of the day and then got one, would that have been ok? What if they made the last appointment of the day and cancelled an hour before and then showed up seeking unfilled appointments? Morally bankrupt?

Further, speaking of morally challenged people, Cuomo just opened up shots to 60+ lowering the age by 5 years. What if someone made an appointment two weeks ago anticipating that say on March 15th the age limit will be lower? So, they have a March 17th appointment made before they were eligible but at the time of the appointment they are eligible. What now?
posted by AugustWest at 2:02 PM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you want to take a compassionate approach, fear of Covid, and Isolation Fatigue are real.
OTOH, they lied, they knew they were lying, they know they behaved badly, they may just not care much, if at all.
It's also okay for other people to have different approaches to ethics, you might not be ethically inviolable, etc.
Shitty times don't bring out the best in people, sometimes, and I believe the immoral, assholery-promoting Trump administration brought a lot of ugly out into the open and made people more okay with it.
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’m the type of person that would look at any future interaction with this couple through this new lens of, “you lied about this important potentially life-altering choice, what else are you lying about? Are you currently lying to me?”

Frequent interactions where I’m constantly second-guessing everything they say and do would not be fun for me, nor healthy. This is just me. Other people could easily get over this but that’s not me. I could handle occasional meetings in larger groups, but weekly Zoom chats in a small group setting? Sorry, not for me.
posted by mundo at 2:17 PM on March 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: People are tired, they are scared, they are stressed. This is all true. Shitty times do not bring ou the best in people. This is also true. It is under these conditions that people reveal who they truly are. Are you willing to make sacrifices for others, or do you put yourself first? Are you the kind of person who helps others into the lifeboat, or are you the kind of person that shoves someone aside to get your seat?

Where are we drawing the line on what's cool and OK vs unacceptable because it's the pandemic? Cheating on your partner? Beating your kid? Shooting your neighbor for stealing from your vegetable garden? Insider trading? Going off on a racist tirade? Everybody's tired. Everybody's stressed. Not everyone is using that as an excuse to be a lying shithead.

Your friends have demonstrated that they will be good people when things are good. They have also demonstrated that when the chips are down they will look out for themselves first. Make of that what you will.
posted by Anonymous at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2021

the vaccine is unlikely to change the percentage of people who die from a case very much.

This study says of the Pfizer vaccine "The estimated effectiveness in preventing death from covid-19 was 72% in the two to three weeks after the first dose." And trials of the Moderna vaccine showed that people who still got Covid after being vaccinated did not have what was classified as a "severe" case.

Jumping the line is shitty, how to deal with/reckon with that on a personal and systemic level is complicated, but please don't bring misinformation into it, especially when there is already so much of that going around among people who are hesitant about vaccines to begin with.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:50 PM on March 14, 2021 [8 favorites]

A few days ago, they texted me, "Hooray! We got vaccinated!" I said, "Oh, so the instructions for waiting at Walgreens worked?" They said, "No, we found one vaccination center that doesn't require a doctor's letter, so we went and claimed to have comorbidities!" I said, "Wait, you lied?" They said, "Yes. It feels so good to be vaccinated! They didn't require any proof of comorbidities."

The husband said he has no guilt. He said "If others aren't going to take advantage of vaccine opportunities, I sure will." The wife said she "had mixed feelings but didn't feel too bad, and was more afraid of getting caught."

Here in Canada, people have been fined heavily for doing exactly this.
posted by itsflyable at 2:58 PM on March 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

He said "If others aren't going to take advantage of vaccine opportunities, I sure will."

OK, fuck that noise. Covid fatigue is very real, but this is just bullshit; the impact of the digital divide on vaccine uptake in NYC is well-documented and means that high-risk seniors are going without, precisely because of line jumpers like your friends. Are they at least paying it forward by helping those others find and "take advantage" of open vaccine appointments?

I have no patience with the sort of people who spew victim-blaming crap like this, and I'll tell you why: I worked through the 2010 H1N1 outbreak in NYC (which was several orders of magnitude less intense than covid, but still pretty scary), and I vividly remember the anger I felt when my fellow med student's fiancé, an investment banker, proudly told us that his whole company had gotten the updated flu vaccine. This was a week or so before it was available to healthcare workers, let alone our high-risk patients.

Fast-forward ten years: I follow my former classmate on Instagram (we are now in different states) and throughout this pandemic, she has been posting photos of their multi-person dinner parties and beach days. She is a stroke doctor! They live in a city which rapidly became and has remained one of the hotspots in the US! (And no, these aren't old photos either; I've been watching her new dog grow from a furball puppy to a giant long-leggedly beastie.)

So yeah, when people tell you they are selfish, believe them the first time.
posted by basalganglia at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2021 [24 favorites]

One thought: how would you feel, and how do you think they would feel, if you asked them to pay it forward as suggested above? If they're into volunteering, could you suggest they spend some time volunteering to help disadvantaged folks access the vaccine (either formally or informally, like asking their neighbours if they need help applying/finding vaccine spots)? Would doing something like this make you feel better about things?

I also want to suggest the possibility that you might be taking this more personally because you feel that by remaining friends with them, you would be enabling or passively supporting their actions. This is something to consider if you and your other friends feel very strongly about this issue and others end up finding out that they took advantage of this opportunity and you continued to be close to them. How does that possibility make you feel?
posted by fight or flight at 3:26 PM on March 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

What a very thoughtful and interesting bunch of responses.

Most people agree that what they did was wrong but how wrong is up for debate.
Most people also agree that COVID has brought out bad behavior, stress and unhappiness that makes people do things they might not otherwise do.

This year of isolation and loss has made good friends seem quite dear to me. I would be loathe to throw away a friendship. I'd advise waiting a little bit, get a bit of perspective and then check in on your feelings. Right now you are outraged, quite hot on it, feeling disappointed and raw. It might feel good to take a stand.

But there is no rush. The last four years (+) has also taught us how valuable and rare kindness can be. As the vaccine situation improves, this might seem like more of an aberration that you can overlook. Or with some perspective, it might still seem like a dealbreaker.
posted by moedym at 3:53 PM on March 14, 2021 [6 favorites]

I sort of wonder if the obnoxious, bragging attitude (especially the guy) has a lot to do with the anger here, as well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:03 PM on March 14, 2021 [6 favorites]

A further thought -

They sent me screenshots of the available pharmacy appointments, as justification of their action.

I have to question whether they really sent you a screenshot of available appointments, as opposed to simply a list of pharmacies offering the vaccine.

The difference being: a list of places offering the vaccine is just that, a list. It is on the person looking for a vaccine to call each one individually and be told "sorry, we're only offering this to people 60 and over" or "sorry, we don't have appointments right now". Just today I even went in person to a pharmacy that shows upon that list and asked "so how can I make an appointment" and they asked me my age and said that "sorry, you're not eligible at this location".

And of course, all that faffing about calling means that most available appointments are gone by the time I finish making the round of calls. And if your friends were the people who got the slot in my neighborhood I was trying to get....

Now, if they really did send you a list of pharmacy appointments, then I really would like you to talk to them on my behalf becuase I have been looking for such a thing for two weeks now. My other friends swear that they have seen such a site, but I am only ever able to find sites that help you find appointments at the mass vaccination sites. If you can get me the web site that they used to make that screenshot, maybe that would absolve them.

....However, if it was just a list of "here are pharmacies offering the vaccine", that doesn't mean that they actually DO have appointments and they've just been trying to assuage their own guilt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 PM on March 14, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: So, I can't tell you whether to make friendship-ending decisions over this, but... retail pharmacies in NYC could only vaccinate those over 65 until this past week. Nobody in any other cohort. Just that one. No comorbidities, no healthcare workers, no firefighters. 65+ only. Now they can do 60+ and teachers, but that's it. You roll up in there at 47 years old with a history of cancer... nope.

If that's their sole argument for lying to get an appointment, I, as an internet stranger and privileged white person who has a genuine comorbidity and who struggled to get an appointment, and someone who is also helping my friends who are elderly or who are otherwise eligible as frontline workers but have little access to computers get appointments, give you my full permission to tell these people to go fuck themselves.
posted by bedhead at 7:11 PM on March 14, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: They reiterated that there is plenty of extra vaccine in pharmacies and if others chose not to take the available vaccine, it's fine for the two of them to take it. They sent me screenshots of the available pharmacy appointments, as justification of their action.

Your friends are misunderstanding (or maybe misrepresenting) how vaccination scheduling works in NY. In NY, people whose eligibility rests solely on comorbidities are not allowed to get vaccinated at pharmacies; they are only allowed to use the other avenues, such as a hospital or mass vaccination site. And it is definitely hard to get an appointment at a non-pharmacy location. I know, because I spent several days last week trying to find one for a person I know who has comorbidities.

So, the fact that appointments may be available at pharmacies is irrelevant to your friends' claim that they’re not taking vaccines away from other people, because pharmacies aren’t where people who have comorbidities get vaccinated. They may not have cut in front of people with pharmacy eligibility, but they did cut in front of (for example) my friend.

So to recap. Your friends did not qualify for the vaccine, but they lied and said they did. They don't appear to have any special circumstances that might justify the lie, and they are not even claiming to believe that they do. Officials had decided that in order to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible for eligible people, proof of comorbidities wouldn't be required, and your friends took advantage of that. The husband is completely unrepentant and the wife (who doesn't want to "get caught") seems to have the ethical reasoning of a child. And, given that they had to make and then keep an appointment, they don’t even have the excuse that this was an impulsive, selfish decision that they now regret.

You could consider the pandemic itself to be a mitigating circumstance. Like, we are all feeling stressed and anxious and sad and deprived, and maybe we are not making the best decisions. But we are not all jumping the queue. You didn't. I didn't.

I would absolutely a million percent dump these friends. They're terrible.
posted by Susan PG at 7:12 PM on March 14, 2021 [14 favorites]

I sort of wonder if the obnoxious, bragging attitude (especially the guy) has a lot to do with the anger here, as well.

To me, what grates in terms of friendship is the idea of having spent an extended period of time making post-Covid plans and seeing them barge ahead of the OP towards their own post-Covid state of affairs. The implicit assumption was that they were in the queue together and they'd come out together. In that situation, you'll see them on the other side, but not before then. Enjoy Coney Island before it properly reopens.
posted by holgate at 8:29 PM on March 14, 2021

Best answer: I wanted to add: OP, you've been considering whether to try to preserve the relationship with the wife, and have been worrying about punishing her for his actions. I'd urge you to consider her equally as culpable as him.

Your friends sound like so many married white heterosexual couples I have known. She is liberal and "nice" and does charitable work, and he is kind of a jerk and makes good money. The bargain here is that he will behave selfishly on behalf of them both, allowing her to enjoy the benefits of selfishness while preserving her conception of herself as a good person. Once you see this pattern you can't unsee it; it is so many couples.

I agree you shouldn't blame her for his actions, but I do think you should blame her for her actions.
posted by Susan PG at 8:59 PM on March 14, 2021 [51 favorites]

1. This is a husband who cheats and boasts about it. He feels grand that he got one over on other people. (You know, those "other people", those sick worthless nobodies who lack the fast internet connection to get the vaccine appointment even if they are eligible.) This sort of husband is the kind who cheats on his wife, then can't resist boasting about it. He cheats on his taxes and boasts about it. He trades on "stock tips" and boasts about it. He stiffs his gardener and then boast about calling ICE to avoid paying them. Etc., etc., etc..

In my experience, it is best to drop this sort of person immediately not because he cheats, but because he is stupid. (My opinion doesn't reach the question of whether to drop a person who cheats but isn't stupid enough to boast about it. Those non-stupid cheats have not burdened you with knowledge of their cheating.)

2. This is a wife who cheats, possibly under pressure from her cheating husband, and feels guilty because she knows cheating is wrong and hurts other people. This is a person who will support her husband in wrongdoing because that results in a better outcome for her. Being friends with her will not result in a better outcome for you. In any case, they are a package deal. Her morals are compromised by her husband's lack of morals, because she benefits by supporting him.

In my experience, it is best to drop this kind of "flexible morals" person immediately upon learning of their flexibility in the direction of wrongdoing. Failing to drop this type of person right away results in all kinds of bad outcomes. For you.
posted by KayQuestions at 9:11 PM on March 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

The reason this is despicable is because they decided they know better which vaccines are “extra.” They don’t know that—complete arrogance used to justify selfishness. They’re lying to themselves and are trying to pull it with you too.
posted by kapers at 9:54 PM on March 14, 2021

Best answer: I did a whole Metatalk post on how I thought it would be good to be less judgmental towards people not adhering closely to COVID precautions, how we were all trying to do something very hard for a very long period without much support, how we should adopt a harm reduction model.

This is not that. This is just purely selfish, calculating behavior from middle-aged adults in comfortable circumstances whose vaccine prioritization accurately reflects their risk (not always the case, which makes it much harder). Furthermore, it wasn't an emotional or impulsive act. They had to decide to do it, actually make the effort involve to nab a spot, and then actually leave the house to get the shots--most likely over a period of at least a day or so, if not more.

What you now know is that their apparently benevolent behavior in other circumstances is a function of their privilege. That's better than not acting benevolently at all, of course, but it tells you exactly how they will act when the chips are down, and it's not good. I don't know if this requires some kind of dramatic friend-breakup, but I do know I wouldn't trust or respect such people, which for me places serious constraints on the kind of relationship we could have.
posted by praemunire at 10:31 PM on March 14, 2021 [22 favorites]

(Oh, yes, and as a public-interest lawyer in NYC, probably half my colleagues are in "the wife morally launders the aggressive capitalist behavior of the husband in finance/corporate law/tech while enjoying its financial benefits" structures. It is a very real phenomenon, and gets exponentially worse when they have children "on whose behalf" the wife feels justified in acting selfishly.)
posted by praemunire at 10:59 PM on March 14, 2021 [23 favorites]

I agree with everyone saying that it’s not really necessary or your role to calibrate the precise level of wrongness of this couple’s actions, but not because I think you’re being too judgmental. It sounds like your feelings are providing a good enough guide here: you feel uncomfortable, and I think that’s all you need to know for now.

If I’m reading this next part correctly:

The husband asked me to drop the vaccine subject and go on as though it never happened.

Then I double think you should listen to that discomfort. It makes me feel weird that this man thinks he is entitled to tell you all about this shitty thing they did and then tell you to keep your mouth shut when he doesn’t like what you have to say.
posted by mustard seeds at 2:05 AM on March 15, 2021 [23 favorites]

So, I live in NYC, and it's clear there's a bunch of this going on. And I'm definitely not going to do it. But I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a voice in the back of my head whispering that I'm a sucker, and that I'm going to be the last person vaccinated because I'm too dumb to do what everyone else is doing. And I'm able to resist the pull of this voice. But I'm not sure how harshly I'd judge someone who wasn't able to.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2021 [7 favorites]

Ragged Richard makes a good point that temptation is strong - but to re-direct, many people are able to resist that temptation, and at most may only have to wait a couple weeks and keep trying (case in point - thanks to the Mefites who have been Memailing me advice, I FINALLy got an appointment for today at 3:30).

It's like any social/societal rule - there are rules, and with every rule there is a temptation to break it. Most of us resist that temptation for the sake of our fellow neighbors (we don't steal from the corner store, we don't pick a bloom off our neighbor's rose bush, we don't cut through our neighbor's yards as a shortcut).

Your friends have shown that they are not able to resist temptation in this instance. What other rules may they bend to suit themselves?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2021 [15 favorites]

Ugh. If all healthy 40 year olds signed up then there actually wouldn't be enough doses for those who meet criteria. So it's okay for them to lie, but it wouldn't be okay for everyone to?
posted by pintapicasso at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think it is important as a society not to shame people for getting vaccines: my parents, who are eligible, both feel guilty about getting theirs for different reasons, and I wish that weren't the case. I also thought Gov Cuomo was extremely boneheaded when he decided to fine health care providers who used extra doses of vaccine on people who weren't eligible.

But on a personal level I absolutely would not want to associate with people who'd jump the line. I didn't do it, my close friends wouldn't do it, and that's just a line in the sand for me personally. (I know I tend toward being overly judgmental.)
posted by ferret branca at 11:58 AM on March 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I don't want to shame anyone for getting vaccinated. I want to shame them for lying in order to get vaccinated. That is the bad part.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:50 AM on March 18, 2021 [6 favorites]

I mentioned up above that I have a friend who told me that she lied about having a qualifying condition so she could get the vaccine. It turns out that she lied to me: she was embarrassed to admit that she has gained a bunch of weight in the past year and now has a BMI that is high enough to qualify. (That makes me sad, because I would definitely be more likely to judge someone for jumping the vaccine line than for gaining weight.) I'm definitely not claiming that's what's going on with the OP's friend, but it was a good reminder for me that shit is hard for everyone, and there's often more going on than I see.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: For anyone interested, I had the call with my friend (the wife of the couple).

She started by acknowledging that she lied to cut in line. She expressed contrition. She mentioned paying it forward by volunteering at vaccine centers. I was relieved.

However, after she saw my relief, her language began changing. Instead of "a mistake", it became "a grey area". The talk of volunteering to pay it forward went away, and she instead began discussing how I hurt her feelings and should have brought up the topic in a gentle manner that was less direct and confrontational.

I said that her action bothered me because the pandemic has already been harder on marginalized groups and cheating makes it worse. I asked why she felt comfortable prioritizing herself above those groups. She was offended and named many examples of how she treats housecleaners and other household servants well. I found this unconvincing.

At the end of the call, she talked at length about how this week has been tough for her, due to her feelings of guilt and rejection by me. She said I need to treat my friends with more patience and benefit of the doubt.

Many MeFi answers said to be forgiving with friends because it's been a hard year. However, at various times in my life, I've faced tough circumstances where my loved ones were at risk. I want to know who I can count on when shit hits the fan. I don't feel that I have the luxury of waiting to see if friends disappoint me again in the future.

We were both polite and conciliatory in the conversation, and wrapped up on friendly terms. But I plan to cool down the friendship for quite a while.
posted by sandwich at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2021 [22 favorites]

On a related note, Washington Post: Some people are lying to get the vaccine, and it’s testing their friendships
The blame for some of the heartache should land partly on the vaccine distribution system, according to Carmel Shachar, the executive director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

Certainly, those perfectly healthy people who lie on their intake forms “should not feel good about themselves,” Shachar said. “Ultimately, the prioritization schemes are well-intentioned and do serve a valuable purpose, in that we’re trying to find people who are uniquely vulnerable.”

But Shachar does sympathize with those tempted to fib about a health problem or use an old address to qualify for a vaccine — especially when different areas have different rules. “The more you finely slice and dice prioritization categories and do certain occupations but not others, the more you risk somebody saying, ‘Well, there’s no benefit to me for waiting, and the system is not looking out for my interest,’ ” Shachar said.
I'm also listening to this podcast on ethics right now, which might be relevant to interests.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

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