Vaccine rollout is too focused on who should get it

A health worker shows a vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 being used during a priority vaccination program for the elderly at a vaccination center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday. Associated Press.

COVID-19 vaccines are finally available, and while that is an important step in mitigating the pandemic, there are still hindrances in the system that need to be dealt with.

According to reporting by the New York Times on Wednesday, as of Jan. 22, 39.9 million doses had been distributed while only 19.1 million doses had been administered. This begs the question: why aren’t these vaccines making it to those in need?

In Texas, one solution could be opening up who is eligible for vaccination.

“All providers that have received COVID-19 vaccine must immediately vaccinate healthcare workers, Texans over the age of 65, and people with medical conditions that put them at a greater risk of severe disease or death from COVID-19,” DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said on the Texas Vaccine Information webpage. “No vaccine should be kept in reserve.”

That last line puts a kink in the hose. According to reporting by the Austin American-Statesman, two million Texans had been vaccinated by Thursday, while another 1.2 million doses remained unused, though there is speculation the number is due to reporting delays.

Constraints in vaccination allowance stretch farther than Texas’ borders. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted restrictions twice in a span of three days after complaints from healthcare workers explaining the wasted vaccines they threw out each night. California followed a similar pattern.

Of course people with underlying health conditions and those at high risk for a severe reaction to the coronavirus should be first in line, but why can’t there be a protocol in place for when people cancel appointments to where people off the street can get vaccinated before doses go bad?

The underlying issue behind the lack of a cohesive plan for vaccine rollout from state to state is the lack of guidance the federal government had in place prior to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, confirmed the suspicions on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House,” Klain said.

During his first week in office, Biden signed a slew of executive orders, some relating to how to get the vaccine to as many people as possible, including authorizing the use of the Defense Production Act to secure supplies for healthcare workers.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks, with a new administration at the helm, a more cohesive national plan will take hold that will serve the people better. Until then, keep pressuring local officials to figure out how to keep waste to a minimum.