By Monday afternoon, of 25.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed across the United States, just 9 million had actually been administered to patients. That’s well short of the government’s goal of inoculating 20 million people by the end of 2020.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Government-controlled markets are notoriously inefficient and subject to waste, fraud, and abuse. In this case, tragically, the consequences are deadly.
Inexplicably, the government is moving with no real sense of urgency. In December in New York City, vaccinations effectively weren’t happening on weekends and holidays. This weekend, about a month after Pfizer and BioNTech received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their shot, two round-the-clock vaccine clinics finally opened in the city.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has prioritized equity over efficiency. He’s threatened to fine any provider who administers a vaccine to someone who’s not on the priority list $1 million. Then last week, in hopes of speeding things up, the governor announced fines of $100,000 for hospitals that don’t administer COVID-19 vaccine doses within a week of receipt.
In Florida, wealthy donors to a nursing home received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of elderly residents. In late December, seniors were camping out overnight at one of seven sites in hopes of receiving an early dose of the vaccine. In the weeks since, Floridians have struggled to make appointments and been scammed by fraudsters charging them for nonexistent spots in line.
California was sitting on roughly 1.3 million doses as of Jan. 6. Health officials blamed the inaction on logistical hurdles, such as the fact that agencies requesting the vaccine had to register with and be approved by the state.
This pandemic has been with us since March. Couldn’t some of these administrative headaches have been dealt with some time during the last 10 months?
Scientists developed effective COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year. What a travesty it would be if it took longer to vaccinate the country because of government incompetence.
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.