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Morning Brief: Vaccine Ethics, The Wild West, And Fro-Yo

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Colorful flowers growing over a ledge in South Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s March 9.

As more people become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, but supply remains low, many Angelenos are struggling with ethical questions. If an opportunity presents itself to get a shot but you’re still not eligible, should you take it? What about getting a dose that would otherwise be thrown out?

On our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 KPCC, guest host Libby Denkmann discussed this issue with Jennifer James, a researcher at UCSF Bioethics, and Alyssa Burgart, a bioethicist and pediatric anesthesiologist at Stanford University.

Over the course of the conversation, both women emphasized two points: That the difficulties many Americans experience trying to get a vaccine are systemic governmental failures, not individual failures; and the importance of distinguishing between equity and equality, and between what is fair and what is just.

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In response to a caller who received the vaccine at the same time as her elderly parents, despite not being eligible, Burgart pointed to the confusing — and sometimes misleading — information that’s been disseminated by all levels of government.

“This [is about] individual decisions versus what does systemic injustice look like,” she said. “When you have a community that does not trust its local health care providers, does not trust its state public health services to provide equitable access to vaccination, then it creates an environment in which folks ... are forced to make individual decisions based on their individual priorities.”

Speaking to a similar question, James used the hypothetical example of being at a CVS clinic at the end of the day, and pharmacists having an extra dose.

“The fair thing to do at that point is to say, Nobody here is eligible, let's throw this in the garbage,” she said. “But that's clearly not the ethical thing to do. We have a shortage right now, and we're in the middle of a pandemic. The just thing to do, what’s equitable to do, is put that in somebody's arm. If that's a 19-year-old kid who happens to be buying something at the CVS, get that person the dose if they want it.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

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What Else You Need To Know Today

  • LAUSD’s superintendent suggested that a return to school is on the horizon, despite pushback from the local teachers’ union.
  • Long Beach is getting a jump on the rest of the state in offering COVID-19 vaccines to people with disabilities.
  • County officials will debate whether to increase funding for the 9-1-1 alternative, L.A. Versus Hate, in the wake of increased hate crimes against Asian Americans.
  • As schools try to work out return plans for students who have been out during the pandemic, how are families feeling?
  • Kaiser Permanente opened a mass vaccination site at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster.
  • A judge will allow Burbank officials to shut down Tinhorn Flats, a Western-themed bar and restaurant that has flouted COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Catch up with comedian and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" co-creator Rachel Bloom. Geek out at a Caltech lecture on the Perseverance Rover that's roaming Mars. Tune into LAist's TV Pilot Club as we re-examine "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." And more.

Before You Go … The L.A. Fro-Yo Joint That Employed Meghan Markle

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Meghan Markle, then the Duchess of Sussex, attends the Commonwealth Day Service on March 9, 2020 in London. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images, strawberry swirl yogurt photo courtesy of Humphrey YogartPhoto, photo collage by Elina Shatkin)
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Of all the frozen yogurt joints in all the towns in all the world, Meghan Markle worked at this one — Humphrey Yogart.

During Sunday night's interview with Oprah Winfrey, Markle mentioned that when she moved to Los Angeles, she worked at Humphrey Yogart. The nostalgic reference made many Angelenos smile. In the rest of the country (any maybe the world), people wondered: "Is that place for real?"

Yes, Humphrey Yogart is real — and it's spectacular.


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