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Confusion, Lack of Planning and Delayed Funding Trouble States’ Vaccine Rollouts

January 8, 2021 by Sara Wilkerson
Vanessa Arroyo, a nurse, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Rafael Martinez on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

As the first week of the new year comes to an end, the vaccine distribution system across the country continues to face numerous challenges in producing an effective rollout as the public remains confused on who is supposed to get the vaccine, as states experience delayed vaccine funding from the federal government and as climbing numbers of coronavirus deaths and cases continue to overwhelm America’s health care system. 

Despite the millions of Americans who have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, there remains confusion among the general public and health care providers on who should be prioritized first for the vaccine. 

Although the Centers for Disease Control recommends that health care personnel and residents at long-term care facilities should be prioritized for the vaccine, this recommendation has not been consistently followed as some states have allowed wealthy or well-connected individuals to bypass the CDC’s guidelines. 

Meanwhile, other states such as Tennessee and Florida have kept senior citizens in long lines waiting for the vaccine, with some instances of individuals staying in line overnight

Pharmacies have also played a role in the inconsistencies of the vaccine rollout. 

Walgreens, for instance, recently had to throw out expired vaccine doses after an Ohio long-term care facility returned vials to an unnamed pharmacy in the state. 

On the other side of the coin, a Giant D.C pharmacy randomly gave out two doses that were soon-to-be-expired to customers in accordance with D.C health officials’ “zero waste” policy. 

“If doses will expire due to missed appointments, they should administer the vaccine to anyone who wants to take it,” a spokesperson for DC Health said in an emailed statement to Pew Trusts

Commenting on the inconsistency of state rollouts, Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, a Maryland-based non-profit that promotes immunization efforts, stated that, “Americans clearly are confused about when people of different ages, professions and health conditions can receive vaccines.” 

Hannan continued further saying, “There are not yet enough doses to open vaccines to the broader public,” and noted that, “Obviously we have to do a better job of outlining expectations. 

“No one knew the plan. I know it’s confusing to the public,” she added. 

Poor communication over who receives the COVID-19 vaccine is not the only culprit leading to confusion on vaccine distribution. 

The federal government’s response to funding for the vaccine distribution has been slower than expected for many, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said in an interview with NPR that, “If we don’t catch up on what the original goal was, then we really need to make some changes about what we’re doing.” 

So far, the Trump administration has left the vaccine rollout in the hands of the states to handle, yet the delayed funding of nearly $9 billion for the states has effectively slowed the overall vaccine rollout across the country. 

“If Congress had allocated funds to states in the spring or summer,” said Jim Blumenstock, senior vice president for pandemic response with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, a non-profit that represents public health agencies, “local officials would have had the time and resources to create a more efficient distribution effort.” 

“It’s gone too slowly, I know, for many of us,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., earlier this week. “All of us, I think, want to see 100% of what’s received immediately administered in people’s arms. 

“That’s a challenge,” admitted Newsom. 

Despite the rising number of coronavirus deaths and cases that have impacted the nation’s healthcare system, public confidence in taking the vaccine has risen considerably in recent months, with as many as 60% of Americans saying that they would take the vaccine if it were available to them today.  

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