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Opinion >  Letters

Public health and socialism

Kathleen Ochs’ letter (“A perspective on socialism,” Jan. 26) argues that West Virginia’s vaccination success proves “There is no contest in the private sector’s ability to meet the needs of the people (i.e., capitalism) vs. the government’s ability to timely meet the needs of the people (i.e., socialism).” But West Virginia demonstrates effective government action, not the market responding to a public health crisis. Their success rests on the following realities (NYT, Jan 24):

Instead of a “patchwork of voluntary private enterprise actors,” the state took control and paired independent pharmacies with 200 nursing homes.

They “put the National Guard at the helm of vaccine operations.” Direction of the program is under control of the National Guard working with state agencies – hardly a private enterprise approach.

West Virginia University Medicine – a state actor – opened a mega-clinic in Morgantown.

West Virginia does not allow “philosophical exemptions” for opting out of immunizations required for school attendance, which has created “a culture where acceptance of vaccinations may be more prevalent.”

Rather than capitalism versus socialism, West Virginia is an example of a relatively small state in which the state government has aggressively taken central charge of COVID-19 vaccinations and relied on the National Guard to implement military-type organization and direction to assure the program is a success. It does partner with private sector entities, as do any reasonable governments.

Public health is almost always an essential government function, poorly served by private enterprise, because it takes a government to deal with the “tragedy of the commons.”

Bill Fassett


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