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Is It OK To Lie For A Booster? Here's What Some Of You Had To Say

Illustration by Malaka Gharib

Is it OK to lie to get a booster shot? What about to get a vaccine for your not quite 12-year-old? Last week we published a post exploring the medical, practical and ethical consequences of lying. And we asked our readers to weigh in: Is it unethical to get a vaccine when the government says it's not your turn. Some of you gave us a "Heck yes, it's unethical!" Others are willing to break, or at least bend, the vaccine rules if you 1. Think those rules won't keep you or your loved ones healthy and/or 2. Believe unused vaccines will end up in a dumpster.

Here's a sampling of what you had to say. Thanks to everyone who responded. Responses have been edited for length and clarity; initials rather than full names are used to protect the respondents from online harassment.

'Zero' regrets about telling a lie

L.M., Texas

Our son turned 12 on August 12 – school starts on August 16. Earlier that week I took him to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. He was basically days away from being 12 — and the governor is offering our kids no protections. He has backed us into a corner and we are taking matters into our own hands to protect our kids. I am not alone — I am in MANY mommy groups on Facebook, and this is happening everywhere, not just in Texas.

When parents fear for their children's lives when they are headed back to school, you know there's a problem. I can rest somewhat easier knowing our son has at least some protection from his first vaccine dose, and he will wear a mask to school at least until he's a few weeks beyond his second dose.

I have exactly zero regrets.

Dismayed By An Acquaintance's Misrepresentation

J.B., Pennsylvania

I just found out two people I know lied about their vaccine status to get a booster. I was stunned they did this for many reasons but particularly the ethical and health reasons. Both are educated professionals and one of the two works in the health-care field. I felt they exhibited a selfish entitlement attitude by taking vaccines that could have gone to others. Also, the misrepresentation that it was their first vaccine taints the actual state department of health where they live and the CDC reporting of newly inoculated people.

I blame in part this rush for a third vaccine on the Pfizer CEO. How self-serving of him when he made an announcement about the reasons why their company thought boosters were required, stepping ahead of WHO and CDC.

The immunocompromised need to do what they need to do

B.Z., Maryland

You did not address the very real issue of immunocompromised people and their need for a third vaccine.

After extensive collaboration with my medical team, they advised me to "do whatever I needed to do" to get a third vaccine as soon as possible and not to wait for FDA to make a decision. So I lied. I don't know who will pay the costs and frankly I don't care. I could not get into a study and we needed to try to get my antibody levels up. When vaccine doses are being discarded because there are not enough people who want them, I do not feel at all guilty for using one of them.

As it turns out, the FDA announced a week after I got the 3rd vaccine that they would be making a decision 'within a week'. We'll see. I hope so.

[Editor's note: On August 12, the FDA authorized a third COVID-19 dose for people with weakened immunity.]

Looking for global balance

T.W., California

I'm on a temporary hiatus from New York City and have found myself in a very rural part of California where it is all big trucks, confederate flags and maskless militia supporters. Every pharmacy window has handwritten signs trying to encourage people to walk in off the street: "Extra vaccines! They are free!" It has been this way since the very beginning and it is clear that no one is taking them up on the offer.

Is there any strategy coming down the pipeline to better allocate these shots, which are inevitably expiring, to the places that actually need and want them? Are these locations constantly getting a stream of usable vaccines only to trash them shortly after? I'd love to believe that by not using these unclaimed vaccines that they are actually being reallocated to people in need. What is the system for balancing out the national/global supply, and are we watching what could be extra protection for those who need it be washed down the drain?

'If I could have sent that dose to Africa, I would have.'

R.T., Fla.

I got a Pfizer backup for my J&J and I didn't lie, but I may not have answered in the most direct way either.

"First shot?"

"Pfizer? Yes."

I can't say that I feel bad about it. I live in a huge hotspot surrounded by every variant. Look at Sturgis, Lollapalooza, Rolling Loud and countless other large events. Look at the pastors and politicians, radio and TV personalities and social media influencers telling people to not trust or take the vaccine at all.

What could possibly go wrong? It's like when Patrick had 10 hooks in his mouth and he tells SpongeBob, "I sense no danger here." Except it's tens of millions of Patricks. I can't help them.

If I could have sent that dose to Africa, I would have. We all know that at the end of that day doses were thrown out. Odds are very high that all I took was something that was pre-garbage. Alabama has reportedly had to toss 65,000 doses. Don't try to judge me for protecting myself as I wade through a sea of idiots.

Not up for discussion

P.R., Philippines

No one should lie, period.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.