It is no longer news that we already have the coronavirus vaccine in the US. In fact, many people are already fully vaccinated, but we have a long way to go. But for those that thought the vaccines would bring about the immediate end of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s bad news – it won’t. Vaccines will help combat the virus, no doubt about that, but only after they are distributed.
It seems to me like we focused all our attention on getting a vaccine, and very little on what to do when we finally get the vaccines. The vaccines aren’t going to distribute themselves, are they? Currently, the problem in many parts of the country is not the lack of vaccine doses, but problems on the distribution end.
Perhaps the most pressing of these problems is how to distribute the vaccine. How are the vaccines allocated? How many does each state get? Which centers and hospitals are going to get them? How are the vaccines going to reach rural regions? All of these are questions we still don’t have good answers for. While the Trump administration oversaw the vaccine production and kudos to them on that, I must say, they had no solid plan in place to distribute the vaccines. The result of this is inconsistent distribution among states, with some states having stores of vaccines but no way to distribute, and others having exhausted the doses they have.
The primary reason for these varying results across states is that the previous administration allowed states to decide how they want the vaccines rolled out. This was to make the distribution as flexible as possible. While this seems like a good strategy on paper, it didn’t turn out to be very effective in reality. Why? States only knew of how many doses they would receive about two days before they were given. As you may imagine, that’s a very short time to make great plans on how to roll out the vaccines. States that weren’t very prepared suffered for it.
President Biden plans on revamping this federal plan, and get 200 million more doses of the vaccine, 100 million each from Pfizer and Moderna, before summer. This, in addition to the doses these companies have already promised us, will see about 300 million Americans vaccinated by summer. Vaccinating that much people is definitely a lofty goal, but achievable if we go about it the right way. And the right way is formulating better and more effective vaccine distribution strategies.
The US has also faced the problem of public perception in vaccine distribution. This is one of the most difficult problems to solve by the government as they can’t force people to take vaccines. Some people have reservations over the vaccines’ long-term safety and opt out of taking them or allowing their children to take them. That’s definitely reasonable. No one wants to risk their health, particularly people who have suffered losses in recent times.
Then there’s another group of people that actually believe the vaccines were made to harm them. I hear allegations like, ‘they’re trying to put microchips in our bodies,’ or, ‘they want to turn us to zombies.’ I swear I’m not making this up. There’s only so much the government can do in convincing people in this category.
If you’re unsure of the vaccine for safety reasons, then don’t be. The science speaks for itself. This is one of the few cases where the more you learn about the vaccine, the more confident in it you become. Don’t buy into the claims that a vaccine made in one year cannot be safe. Admittedly, no vaccine has been made in such a short time-frame but note that there were already years of experience in the SARS-CoV viruses, of which the coronavirus is part. And there’s also the fact that we have improved technology and billions were invested into making the vaccines. For those that think the vaccines contain microchips, they don’t. They really don’t. Your phone is your microchip. Alexa and Google too. The vaccine is not trying to endanger you; it wants to do quite the opposite.
Another problem we have faced is shortages of vaccination materials and centers. To vaccinate 300 million people with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, you’ll need 600 million doses, as they both require two doses to be effective. 600 million doses mean 600 million syringes, vials, and the like. The vaccines also have to be stored somewhere, and the Pfizer vaccine, in particular, doesn’t last more than five days in normal refrigerator conditions. This has severely limited its use in rural areas.
We simply weren’t prepared enough for the pandemic. I know you’re thinking, ‘how can you possibly prepare for a novel virus pandemic?’ And the answer is more simple than you think. Many of the deaths could have been avoided if we had a good medical infrastructure, a working infectious-disease-prevention unit, and huge financial medical reserves.
Other problems affect vaccine distribution too, like poor record-keeping, people jumping the COVID line, and more. There are too many problems to list them all out. The government needs to tackle all of these problems as soon as possible to limit the casualties from the virus, because people are still dying every day, and in record numbers too. Vaccines are our best bet at eradicating the virus; that bit is certain. As such, we need to devote all effort into making their distribution seamless.
Then, we should also play our parts as citizens. Don’t neglect COVID guidelines. If you have taken one dose of the vaccine, you still aren’t fully immune to the virus, and should not be careless. Stay safe.
This article was written by Dr. Adil Manzoor DO, a Board Certified Internist & Board Eligible Pediatrician, who works as a Hospitalist, and Emergency Room Physician. He is also the current President of Garden State Street Medicine, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide free preventive and acute urgent care services for the homeless. He is also the co-founder of his own unique medical practice Mobile Medicine NJ.