COVID Vaccinations Lag as Virus Rages
January 5, 2021 – As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket across the United States, the country’s unprecedented effort to immunize hundreds of millions of adults against the virus is slowly starting to take off.
In December, those responsible for Operation Warp Speed repeatedly promised to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year. On Monday, the CDC reports that just 4.5 million people – mostly healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities – received their first vaccines, out of more than 15 million doses delivered to states. Warp Speed officials have noted that there is a 3-4 day delay in reporting.
“It’s chaotic, and it’s slow, and it’s not where it should be,” says Jennifer Kates, PhD, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. She is part of a team of analysts studying the state’s plans for vaccine distribution.
Many states such as Florida, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Nevada have now made seniors eligible to get their vaccine, if they can find one. In Volusia County, Fla., Local ABC affiliate WFTV reported that elderly people were sleeping in their cars outside the stadium in Daytona to get their shots on Tuesday morning.
The apparent lag has left governors frustrated.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on Tuesday he would activate the National Guard to help county health departments give injections. Only 65,000 people have been vaccinated out of 275,000 vaccines distributed in the state.
Hogan also called on retired healthcare workers to help turn local immunization clinics into 7/7 operations. He said more than 700 retired healthcare workers have already signed up for the effort. .
In New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to fine hospitals $ 100,000 if they did not use up their current stocks of vaccines by the end of the week. Repeated delays could cause them to completely lose the ability to distribute the vaccine.
“It is a question of hospital management,” he said during a press briefing on Monday.
In Ohio last week, Governor Mike DeWine also urged hospitals to step up the pace. He told them they should distribute any vaccine within 24 hours of receiving it and report to the state within 24 hours of administering the vaccines.
“There is a moral imperative to get this out. Every dose of this vaccine could save someone’s life, ”he said.
But his biggest concern, he said, was that people were reluctant to take the photo.
“Anecdotally, it seems like we’re somewhere about 40% of nursing home staff taking the vaccine, 60% not taking it,” he said, at least for now.
“What worries me are people who don’t take it,” DeWine said at a press conference.
Kates says Operation Warp Speed did a remarkable job developing the vaccines and making deals with drug companies to purchase doses, but in terms of distribution, “it was basically handed over to states.
Prior to the signing of the latest stimulus package, states received limited funds to develop complicated distribution plans.
Kates says health departments and hospitals have been asked to manage vaccine distribution in addition to trying to manage testing and contact tracing, while increasing cases of COVID-19.
Some local health services have to make tough choices about what they can handle. On January 1, Georgia’s South Central Health District tweeted that it was drastically cutting testing to focus on vaccinations.
Kates says states are supposed to have some visibility into how many doses they are receiving and where they are going, but she says that in some cases the doses have been sent directly to individual facilities.
“It’s very complicated, and we don’t have a national system that guides how it all goes,” she says. “States have not necessarily been given the tools they need to make this a success.”
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