Opinion: Bungling vaccine distribution a tragedy haunting America

It is stunning that local, state and federal authorities have had a poor start getting vaccines approved two months ago into the arms of Americans. Last week, Dr.Anothony Fauci said 70% to 85% of the U.S. population should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the U.S. can “get back to normal.” Only about 2% of Americans are fully vaccinated now, and another 6% are partially vaccinated. The road remains long.

This is an unprecedented high-stakes vaccination effort involving multiple government bureaucracies, with distance learning, economic hardship and family separations wreaking havoc on all of our health. History will record that humanity rose to the occasion on the hardest part of the effort — getting vaccines approved and ready for arms in record time — but bungled the easier part — the logistics. January saw record COVID-19 deaths in the United States (a trailing indicator, to be sure) — but January also saw more than half the vaccinations supplied to states in storage, not being administered.

Israel, on the other hand, has used every vaccine available on a daily basis and loosened eligibility rules at the end of the day to prevent unfrozen doses from being wasted. The nation’s policy was adopted before the vaccines even became available.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. the rollout has been erratic and problematic.

In conversations countywide and countrywide, people are offering ideas that might — and still could — improve the vaccination process: mobile distribution centers that could deliver vaccines to housebound and other seniors, express lanes at mass vaccination sites for the elderly, an organized system of volunteers who can safely drive people to sites, a massive public relations campaign across every medium of diverse groups of people touting the benefits of — and receiving — shots. Yet government agencies struggle with lines and complaints.

User-friendly websites to schedule vaccinations should have been set up long ago. The concept of vaccination “superstations” at stadiums and college parking lots should have also been in place well before vaccines arrived. The fact that the most at-risk group — older people with preexisting health conditions — may also be the least tech-savvy should have been addressed by getting them information through AMBER Alert-style phone messages and mail or notes sent through utility bills.

Much has been made — properly so — of the failure of the George W. Bush administration to stop Osama bin Laden’s terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks killed 3,000 Americans. Last week, the pandemic death toll topped 450,000 — 150 times as many deaths as from 9/11. Hundreds of thousands more could die. This requires a reckoning. But first this requires a better job being done, immediately.

The San Diego Union-Tribune