Vaccine distribution off to slow start
U.S. authorities planned to distribute 7.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines across the country this week, a massive logistical effort that has been hampered by delays and fierce disputes over which Americans should be inoculated first. Fourteen governors complained that expected shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine to their states had been cut by up to 50 percent, even as the drugmaker reported it had “millions more doses sitting in our warehouse” awaiting shipping instructions. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, head of federal vaccine distribution, conceded he’d “failed” to anticipate rollout delays, but said the U.S. could still hit its target of delivering enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people by year’s end. After winning FDA approval for its two-dose vaccine last week, Moderna said it is on track to produce 20 million shots—enough for 10 million people—by Dec. 31.
To boost confidence in the vaccine campaign, Vice President Mike Pence, President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other top officials received their shots in public. At Stanford Medical Center in California, more than 100 doctors protested the hospital’s decision to vaccinate administrators and surgeons ahead of frontline health-care workers, chanting “Health-care heroes? Back of the line!” Stanford blamed a “very complex algorithm” for its flawed plan. The U.S. is now averaging 215,000 new Covid cases a day and 18,000 fatalities a week, with total deaths above 325,000. A new, more contagious strain of the virus has been detected in Britain (see Best Columns: Europe), leading New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call for a U.K. travel ban.
What the columnists said
Week 1 of vaccine rollout was a “nightmare,” said Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times. The ultracold freezers needed to store Pfizer’s vaccine are thin on the ground, so health workers in Georgia, for example, “had to travel 40 minutes to get a shot.” The Trump administration’s failure to tell Pfizer where to ship doses caused widespread shortages. And this chaos will likely intensify as states try to solve other problems, like which essential workers to vaccinate first and how to notify people when it’s their turn for a shot.
It’s likely most Americans won’t start getting shots until the summer, said Ronald Bailey in Reason.com. But changing Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines from two-shot to one-shot regimens could “double the number of Americans who could be vaccinated soon.” Trial data suggests Pfizer’s vaccine is 82 percent effective after the first shot and 95 percent after the second, while Moderna’s is 92 percent effective after one and 95 percent after two. Even if immunity waned after, say, a year, a single-dose strategy would keep millions safe until vaccine production could be ramped up and booster shots administered.
A word of advice if you’re planning an indoor holiday gathering with friends and family, said Zeynep Tufekci in TheAtlantic.com: Don’t. “Hospitals nationwide are already overwhelmed.” A post-holiday Covid surge could further cripple ICUs. Meanwhile, testing and treatment are improving and vaccines are arriving. “If your loved ones can stay healthy a few months longer,” they’re much likelier to survive the disease—“or to avoid contracting it entirely.” ■