The Vaccine Rollout Is Going Just Great!
The rollout of the coronavirus vaccines continues to be infuriatingly slow, as the Trump administration pisses away its final two weeks (and a day) on a seditious fantasy of reversing the election results, instead of doing everything it possibly can to get vaccines into arms. The administration's goal was to have 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of 2020. Instead, 4.33 million Americans have been given at least the first dose of the vaccine, as of Sunday. But the problem isn't the supply of available vaccine. Instead, manufacturers have been delivering plenty of doses to the federal government, and the feds are delivering vaccines to the states, fitfully. But for all the administration's insistence that there was a plan to get vaccines to Americans, the national planning doesn't seem to have gone any farther than "Announce vaccine, tell the military to ship it, and then everyone's all better!"
As David Dayen points out at The American Prospect, this is insane, and we should all be very pissed off about it:
We knew this vaccine effort was coming really since the first declaration of a pandemic. We've had months to strategize and plan and work out the logistics. We deliver hundreds of millions of flu shots every year; while this was a heavier lift, it's not that much heavier. In that context, the lack of preparedness is unbelievable and yet also perfectly predictable and a fitting coda to a year of deep exposure to the realities of our frayed social structure.
But as we knew from the get-go, this is not an administration that "plans" things, which we saw when it rushed into taking migrant kids away from their parents with no plan at all to ever reunite them. We shouldn't be especially surprised that the vaccine rollout is bogging down, or that the administration is insisting that's all the states' fault, because what is a federal government anyway?
Meanwhile, as CNN notes, the US keeps setting new records for the number of hospitalizations almost daily (Monday, we were at 128,210 nationwide), and COVID-19 deaths have averaged 2,637 a day for the last week, or one death every 33 seconds.
Dayen outlines several of the reasons for the slow rollout of the vaccine, noting that the biggest is about to leave office on January 20 whether he believes it or not. There was simply an appalling lack of leadership at every phase of the pandemic, as Trump attempted to pretend the virus wasn't a big deal, or that it would go away, or that blaming China would somehow fix things, or that it wasn't the federal government's job to deal with it, or that the numbers were all exaggerated to make him look bad. (He was back to that just this weekend, insisting COVID-19 death rates are inflated.)
With the vaccines, the process is only slightly less chaotic than the shortages of scarce supplies in the spring and summer. Since the federal government is distributing the two approved vaccines, at least states don't have to bid against each other, but the process is still janky as hell, Dayen says, since states are sometimes
only given a couple days notice [...] before that allocation goes out. Then the states have to manage keeping doses ultra-cold in storage, shipping to every part of the state, finding the trained professionals to give the shot, working up priority lists, educating people on the importance of the vaccine, keeping track of recipients who need to come back for a second dose, etc., etc.
Many states actually had plans for much of that, but when the supplies arrive with little advance notice, those plans can get disrupted.
On top of that, states have been strapped for funding; April's CARES Act spread just $340 million across the country to help with vaccine distribution, and then Republicans refused to pass anything more for months. The recently passed stimulus bill contained $8 billion for vaccine distribution, but that's only going out now, in the middle of the actual distribution muddle.
Not surprisingly, leaving the last stage of vaccine distribution up to the under-funded states has resulted in more delays: Public health departments are overwhelmed (and in some states, almost literally under siege from angry loons); in some states, the job of distributing vaccines has been handed off to hospitals, who are kind of busy being overwhelmed with sick people. Florida left planning up to counties, many of which decided to just go first-come, first-served for vaccinating folks over the age of 65 . That resulted in some vaccine sites being swarmed with elderly people who spent the night in their cars. Counties that instead asked people to make appointments online often had frequent website crashes.
And yes, there were regrettable errors, as the PR departments say. In West Virginia, more than 40 people who went to a vaccination clinic didn't get a vaccine at all, but were instead given the intravenous monoclonal-antibody treatment from Regeneron that's also in short supply, but which is meant to treat active cases of COVID-19. Oops! It probably didn't harm anyone, but it won't do a thing to prevent the patients from catching the disease, so those folks all had to be found and actually vaccinated.
One solution that might help, as far as overall vaccine supply, would be withholding less of the current supply for people's second doses. Currently,
the federal government is allocating about half of the vaccines being produced. The other half is held in reserve to be used as a second dose or as replacements in cases where doses are unusable.
But by reducing the amount withheld to 10% for the first three weeks and supplying a steady dose of 6 million doses per week, the US could avoid up to 29% more coronavirus cases over eight weeks, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.
The companies are producing vaccine without much of a hitch, so that seems like a reasonable way to get more of it into the pipeline. And for Crom's sake, we need to fix the distribution bottleneck; possibly through ramping up that Public Health Jobs Corps Joe Biden promised, and by instituting dedicated vaccination clinics.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please donate $5 to $10 a month. And for Crom's sake keep wearing your masks. We have them, you know!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.