In December, the fact that an effective, safe COVID-19 vaccine was available in less than a year was amazing. This euphoria didn’t last long. Everyone saw that hundreds of millions of doses had been ordered but only a small trickle seemed to make it to the public.
What happened? Millions of doses were ordered that then had to be manufactured, shipped and received. It became clear almost immediately that government computer systems were largely incapable of handling this. The available software was quickly overwhelmed. There were unrealistic expectations from the public on the government’s role at all levels in making this happen. It is crucial to view this as a national problem not an individual
Transport from manufacturer to distribution sites has proceeded smoothly. However, the number of doses received by sites seems to vary widely without clear reasoning. The public’s demand for vaccination surpasses the ability to deliver causing considerable anxiety within the community.
Communication starting with the Federal Government was weak at best in explaining the months it would take to vaccinate everyone. Remember just because doses were ordered didn’t mean they were on a shelf or in an enormous freezer somewhere. With limited quantities available, rationing was the only way to get doses out to the public. The scheduling systems have crashed repeatedly under the strain of massive call volumes causing anger and disbelief among those attempting to schedule appointments. People with fast internet and savvy computer skills had an edge over the typical senior citizen.
Originally hospitals were to be the primary inoculation site. However, COVID-19 infections soared and combined with a shortage of staff made that unfeasible. Many states’ health department budgets notoriously spread thin to start with became almost translucent. They had neither the physical resources to ramp up nor the money. The funds appropriated by Congress wouldn’t be available until after the start of 2021.
With the availability of vaccine doses unknown and states learning on a Friday what their allocation is for the following week makes planning a nightmare at best. FEMA aims to open up to 100 vaccination supersites around the country in the next 4 to 6 weeks- sometime between mid-March and April. These sites will be in high population and underserved areas. At this time Southwest Florida doesn’t appear to be one of them. FEMA has strong logistical skills so my thought is they would not set up such a program without knowing a constant supply of vaccine would be available.
Let’s hope American resourcefulness can solve this now.