The rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. has been slower than public health officials projected. Just about 6 million people have received a dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, far short of the government’s target to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December.
Experts say some of delay may have been that the federal money to help states took so long to get appropriated in the relief package bill in Congress. There were also two weeks that pharmacy chains needed to organize the vaccine shipments they are contracted to administer in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they don’t administer the vaccine quickly enough. But health care workers say some of this was inevitable, as they contend with limited resources and hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients.
“Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio spoke with Dr. Kelly Moore, deputy director of the Immunization Action Coalition in Nashville, Tennessee, for an update on the vaccine rollout and ways to speed it up. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
David Brancaccio: Where are we with this? I mean, a lot of headlines about a lot of vaccine already out there, but not a lot going into people’s arms. Does this surprise you?
Kelly Moore: I think that some of the promises made by federal officials were truly aspirational, but really unrealistic. If you’ve been in this business as long as I have, you know that there’s a lot of work to do to start rolling out a new vaccination program. So it’s not surprising that we’re getting a slow start, but we should see things improve in the weeks ahead.
Brancaccio: Now, we do really have to get on the stick here. Lives are at stake. Any recommendations for how we could rethink a little bit of this?
Moore: I think a couple of things would be helpful. One of those is going to be getting people experienced with giving these vaccines and rescheduling them.
The other thing is that I’m hopeful that additional funding to public health will allow public health officials to start setting up publicly accessible, large-scale vaccination clinics with the additional resources coming soon.
“It’s not surprising that we’re getting a slow start, but we should see things improve in the weeks ahead.”Dr. Kelly Moore, deputy director of the Immunization Action Coalition
Brancaccio: I’ve noted that who gets vaccinated when really does vary by state. This is the tradition, even before COVID-19, that the CDC recommends but doesn’t mandate?
Moore: That’s right. But in public health at the state and local level, we consider their recommendations nearly scriptural. They are generally supported by the best available evidence. And so, traditionally, we’ve been able to really hang our hats on their recommendations.
Brancaccio: But this time, it seems different? Even though there were always recommendations, this time some states are saying “no, we can figure this out ourselves.”
Moore: Well, I think over the last year, there’s been a lot of confusion about various aspects of the pandemic and the response to the pandemic, whether it came to testing and how testing was done, or contact tracing. And states have felt like CDC wasn’t providing enough guidance, or perhaps the best guidance. There were questions and concerns about political influence on that guidance. And that undermines the credibility of this incredibly important agency.
And I think we’re seeing the results of that in states choosing to go their own way instead of following these guidelines. And it does create more confusion when one state is doing something different than the state next door. So my hope is that we can restore trust in CDC and restore our ability to cooperate across state lines.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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