PROVIDENCE, RI (AP) – Public health officials have been sounding the alarm for months, complaining that they do not have enough support or money to get the COVID-19 vaccines quickly. Now, the slower-than-expected start of the biggest vaccination effort in US history proves them right.
As they work to intensify the shootings, state and local public health services in the United States point to various obstacles, most notably the lack of leadership from the federal government. Many workers worry that they are wasting valuable time in the midst of a pandemic, and delays could cost lives.
States complain about the lack of clarity on how many doses they will receive and when. They say more resources should have been allocated to educational campaigns to allay fears among people willing to receive the photos. And although the federal government recently approved $ 8.7 billion for vaccination efforts, it will take time to reach places that months ago could have used the money to prepare for more efficient photo delivery.
Such complaints have become a common refrain in a country where public health officials have been left largely to solve complex problems on their own.
“The recurring theme is the lack of a national strategy and the attempt to transfer money down and down, while the poor in the host region have no one else to send the money to,”
Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine program, promised to distribute enough doses to immunize 20 million people in the United States in December. He missed that target, and by Friday, about 6.6 million people had received their first shot. About 22 million doses have been delivered to the states.
The American Hospital Association estimates that 1.8 million people must be vaccinated daily from January 1 to May 31 to reach widespread immunity by summer. The current rate is over 1 million people a day below that.
President-elect Joe Biden on Friday called the launch a “parody”, noting the lack of a national plan to introduce doses into weapons and reaffirming his commitment to deliver 100 million shots in the first 100 days. He did not share details and is expected to discuss efforts this week. His office announced a plan to release most doses immediately, instead of keeping a second dose in reserve, the more conservative approach adopted by the Trump administration.
The Trump administration has defined its primary role as developing coronavirus vaccines and delivering them to states that will then take over and ensure that doses of vaccines travel the “last mile” in their hands. Each country had to develop its own plan, including issuing guidelines on who should be vaccinated first. Several health experts complained about the approach, saying it had led to confusion and an unstable reaction.
“Let’s just say I was disappointed with the way they handled the testing, and the introduction of vaccines reminded me how disappointed I was when they were doing the testing,” said Dr. Misha Roberts, health commissioner in Columbus, Ohio.
Several government officials and experts say they believe some of the early problems are being ironed out. Marcus Plesia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said the slow start should come as no surprise given the sheer scale of the task.
“It wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Still, Plessia said the federal government could have done more before the launch – such as releasing billions of dollars earlier to help staff, technology and other operational needs.
An ongoing investigation by the Associated Press and Kaiser Health News details how state and local health departments have been underfunded for decades. Public health officials have been warning since the spring that they lack the staff, money and tools needed to deploy the vaccine. The money was approved by the end of December.
The distribution of vaccines involves a long, complex chain of events. Each dose should be monitored. Providers need to know how much staff they will need. Eligible people should be informed to plan their shots, taking into account the requirements for working with the vaccine and the need to monitor people for 15 minutes after the shot – all while observing social distancing.
It is difficult to plan too far ahead, as the number of doses the state receives can vary. Hospitals cannot take pictures of all their workers on the same day due to possible side effects and staffing problems, so they should be kept away.
Rhode Island health officials said it could take up to seven days for people to receive doses once they have been received. Officials in several states, including Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and New Jersey, said the lack of supplies was one of the biggest obstacles to vaccinating more people.
Some communities have seen large numbers of medical workers delay the shot, even though they are first in line. Columbus, Ohio, has lower-than-expected demand among top priority groups, including emergency medical workers.
A public education campaign could help overcome the hesitation among health workers that has slowed the spread of the first pictures, said James Garrow, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Health Department. Instead, officials have been talking for months about the speed with which vaccines are being developed – which has not helped allay fears that it may not be safe.
“There just weren’t good messages about the safety and focus of security protocols,” Garrow said.
The federal government has not done much to provide information resources that local officials can adapt to their own communities to meet the concerns of people such as pregnant women or black men living in rural areas, said Dr. Michael Osterholm. an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota who is a member of the Biden CIVID-19 Advisory Board.
“You don’t need 50 different countries trying to do this kind of work. “What you want to have is a small font of information sources aimed at different populations that each country can use,” Osterholm said. “That’s what we don’t have at the moment.”
Some countries are getting creative. Oregon held a mass vaccination event at state fairs with the help of the National Guard. The governor said he aims to vaccinate 250 people per hour. New Jersey plans to open six vaccine “megasites” where employees hope more than 2,000 people a day can take pictures.
But without a federal plan, such efforts could be tantamount to “throwing spaghetti on a wall to see what sticks,” said Chrissy Giuliano of the Big Cities Health Coalition, which represents the capital’s health services.
What is needed is a national wartime effort to provide vaccines to as many people as possible, many experts said. Emergency medical situations can be covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Pezzino, who is also a senior fellow at the Kansas Health Institute. Why not provide vaccinations on this schedule?
“It’s possible. It’s possible,” he said. “I don’t see the level of urgency, the sense of urgency in anyone around me. And that really, frankly, is the only thing that can change.”
Receive alerts in the Boston.com browser:
Enable up-to-date news notifications directly in your internet browser.
Turn on notifications
Great, you signed up!