“Chico-espertismo”, “envy” and improvisation | opinion

If there is one thing that irritates the traffic, it is the “smart kids” who run away from the queue along the back alley and move on at the last moment, apologizing for blinking and not stepping on the continuous line. It may not be illegal, but it is immoral. This example comes to mind because the lame declarations of those skipping the Covid vaccine line have exactly the same mark of immorality. The more than justified social condemnation of this “chico-espertismo” can, however, fall into the exaggeration of “envy”. We are all looking and pointing the accusing finger at whoever gets the vaccine before the other and making it a shame. We have to be sensible and know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In Portugal, a mixed prioritization criterion was chosen in the first vaccination phase. On the one hand, the individual health risk was taken into account: people over 50 with very severe pathologies and, for example, in private houses; and on the other hand on the materiality of the function: members of the health professions, armed forces and security and critical services. Here there are reasons of public interest of various kinds, the harmonization of which is not neutral and implies decisions. Although these decisions are made by science, they are political and belong to the government, which is ultimately responsible for them.

The possibility of including specialists from critical areas of activity in the first vaccination phase is for reasons of social interest and not for individual benefit. A doctor is vaccinated first than an old man because hospitals need to stay operational, not because his life is more valuable. Hence, there is no point in abandoning vaccination for those who work in essential services, depending on the will of each person. It would be inconceivable that the Prime Minister would reject the vaccine precisely because it is about the functioning of the government and not about the person António Costa. We can of course discuss whether a particular service should be considered essential and who should be vaccinated within that service. I think we cannot deny that at a time of severe health, economic and social crises, certain critical services need to be provided.

Let’s look at the case of justice. The law provides that in a state of emergency, citizens retain full right of access to justice to defend their rights, freedoms and guarantees. As a result, despite the decline in activity due to detention, the courts continue to operate, performing thousands of procedural acts and diligences daily, many of them in person. It is, therefore, not an unjustified privilege to incorporate equity into the vaccination phase of essential services. The problem is that the implementation of this decision, as it is now being made during ongoing operations, leads to a slight demagogy of “envy”.

I, who telework at home, cannot be vaccinated in front of the PSP agent guarding the door of my court or the court clerk in the civil service just because I am a judge

It was a mistake to speak of sovereign body ownership, which refers exclusively to judges in court. The choice of people to be vaccinated cannot depend on formal criteria or professional qualifications, as in this plan all lives are worth the same. What matters is the role they play and the risk they are exposed to. I, who telework at home, cannot get vaccinated in front of the PSP agent who is guarding the door of my court or the court officials who are in the public service just because I am a judge. It is necessary to see how many vaccines are available and what specific tasks each element fulfills, court by court. These are the basic requirements that an increased risk must take in order to ensure the continuity of the service.

As far as I know, none of this has been done in an articulate manner and on the basis of a single and transparent criterion. The Supreme Court preferred the civil servants, the Court of Auditors preferred the judges, the higher councils of judges indicated their priorities differently, and nothing is known about the judicial officers. It has even gotten to the point where the councils prioritize their own members, many of them certainly teleworking, before judges in office in the courts that administer justice. Everything was badly shaken. Nothing was lost if you stopped, went back and did better.