“Why can’t I get a vaccine?”

This week I tried helping a family friend schedule a vaccine appointment time. I’ve also been trying to figure out how to get my parent’s vaccine appointments set up in another state. Appointment slots go REALLY fast in some areas. In my town, they were gone within 3-4 minutes because of the limited supply. If you are not fast with a computer, I don’t know how you can get an appointment. If you don’t have a computer, it’s hard to get an appointment through the phone system. This is not our city’s public health’s department fault either. Many health authorities are doing the best they can with limited supplies, limited information, and sporadic/delayed shipments. I’m hearing that there’s not as many reserve vaccines in Operation Warp Speed as we originally thought. And, on and on and on. So, I just wanted to empathize with everyone today. I’m as surprised as you are to hear about the logistical hardships of the vaccine roll-out and not knowing if reserve supplies are running out. I knew it would be hard, but not this messy. Here are my thoughts on this:

✅ 1. The logistical challenges of keeping a cold chain on the vaccines (especially the Pfizer one that needs to be stored as really low temps) is very complicated. Only certain facilities are equipped with the freezers needed which, in turn, can impact who can access the vaccines.

✅ 2. States are doing things very differently – indicating a severe lack of a coordinated national plan (and, we need a national plan to get this done). Some states (like Florida) let people come get a vaccine from any state which impacts the Florida residents who are high-risk and need one. Other states have not received shipments that were promised. And, the list goes on. So, it’s a bit of a mess.

✅ 3. Biden outlined his vaccine plan to ramp up production and distribution of vaccines during his first 100 days. I do think he will do a great job with his team to get this done. The distribution planning has to be done on a national scale to make this work. However, he is inheriting a mess so it might take a while to work out the kinks and figure out what went wrong.

✅ 4. Where are the vaccines? Why are they being distributed but not administered? Why are people who are not in the first few risk groups getting them? Are there inequities on who gets the vaccines (the answer is probably yes)? So many questions that I don’t know. I thought I knew the plan and have talked about that with you all. I don’t really understand what’s happening either though.

✅ 5. A success story is West Virginia! Let’s hear it for WV! In the first few weeks of vaccine roll-out, they had administered 90% of distributed doses. That’s a huge number! They used existing independent pharmacy networks (as opposed to OWS partnerships with CVS and Walgreens) with existing relationships, partnerships, and vaccine pipelines (like flu shots) to administer the COVID-19 doses. They focused on long-term facilities, rural areas, and other vulnerable populations. You can read more in the story below in the sources.

✅ 6. I’ve attached a few pictures to show the % of doses that have been administered in a few states: WV, Texas, and California. To see your state, go here: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/

✅ 7. The last two pictures show where we need to be to reach herd immunity and how many doses per day we should be administering in the US. We are a bit away from our goal of 1.5 million doses per day. I am hopeful this will change in the coming weeks to get us closer and closer to herd immunity.

I want to end by saying I’m sorry some of you cannot find a vaccine. I know it’s not my fault. =) But, I empathize with you on this. And, you’ve probably called everywhere you could think of and tried to register in an online system that crashes from so many trying to get a time slot. Some of you are high risk or have family members that are high risk. So, there’s an emotional toll of trying to get a family member a time slot to no avail. I feel ya, friend. I usually say “hang in there” and will say that on this post too. But, I also want to say I’m surprised, frustrated, and trying to be patient with you too. Hang in there, web-peeps!

-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist

SOURCES:

Pictures: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/

WV – https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/07/954409347/why-west-virginias-winning-the-race-to-get-covid-19-vaccine-into-arms

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