The swift development of highly effective vaccines for the novel coronavirus was a marvel of modern science, holding out the prospect of an early end to a pandemic that has rampaged across the country. But creating vaccines is one thing; getting them administered is another. That part of the process is not a marvel but a muddle.
In mid-December, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that 20 million Americans would get shots by the end of the year. By Jan. 8, 21.4 million doses had been distributed, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but only 5.9 million had been administered.
This sluggish rollout coincides with continued tragedy. On Thursday, more than 4,000 people died in the United States from COVID-19, the third straight day of record fatalities. More than 360,000 deaths have occurred. And a new, more contagious strain of the virus that first appeared in Britain has been detected in at least eight U.S. states.
What’s holding up actual vaccinations?
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the federal government and state governments just failed to ramp up sufficiently for a mass inoculation program, which they knew was coming. With months to get ready — Pfizer reported the success of its vaccine trial on Nov. 9 — they seem to have been caught unprepared for the logistical challenges. Why didn’t federal and state officials create mass vaccination training programs? Call on the National Guard, retired medical personnel, college nursing students to administer shots? Open field houses and park districts and stadiums for quicker, more efficient vaccinations? Is that wishful thinking?
People are still getting sick and dying. This is a race to get vaccines in people’s arms as fast as possible. It’s a race we can’t afford to lose.