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Vaccines and Vaccinations Are Two Different Issues

This will be interesting to watch what happens.

The phrase "never been done before" keeps being said, which is an alternative to "unprecedented" being used to describe the upcoming 2021 effort to vaccinate all Americans and, yes, everyone else in the world, all 7.5 billion of us. 

There was this from The Daily Podcast: "When and How You’ll Get a Vaccine."

The description for the above is this: "For Americans, months of collective isolation and fear could soon be winding down. A coronavirus vaccine may be just weeks away. According to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development, the first Americans could receive the vaccine in mid-December. With the vaccine within reach, we turn to more logistical questions: Who will receive the shots first? Who will distribute them? And what could go wrong? Guest: Katie Thomas, who covers the drug industry for The New York Times.   Background reading: Promising clinical trials have buoyed hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight. But even if the vaccines are authorized, only a sliver of the American public will be able to get one by the end of the year. In mid-December, 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are expected to be shipped across the United States in an initial push." [Two doses required, so that is 3.3 million people.]

Here's some Holdeman analysis:

  • I was surprised to hear that with the vaccines becoming available, we [might] be able to achieve herd immunity by May 2021...this seems very early to me! That appears to be way too optimistic. I'm thinking September at the earliest, but then I'm not in charge of Operation Warp Speed.
  • The real problem I've alluded to in earlier blog posts is that we have had centralized planning that will require "decentralized execution." While the development of the vaccine and shipment can be "controlled," once the vaccine arrives in states, it will be county health officials who are in charge of helping administer the vaccination program for their jurisdictions. Not all counties have robust public health systems, and vaccines to inoculate health workers in December will be difficult if only because we will be in a pandemic crisis of epic proportions at the moment the vaccines become available.
  • When it gets time to do the actual vaccinations, command and control becomes nonexistent and I expect the effort will be haphazard at best. Prove me wrong — please!
  • Two doses of the vaccine are required to give you immunity. This makes it incredibly difficult to administer and follow up on. This in itself will require a herculean effort with people in general and those who speak English as a second language, if they have any English skills at all.
  • Moderna has also asked today for emergency authorization for their vaccine, which only requires a normal freezer/refrigeration level. It will be a much better candidate for rural states/counties that don't have the resources for the ultra-cold storage the Pfizer vaccine needs. I'm betting that the Pfizer vaccine will still be sent to all states, but it would be best to use it in the urban centers of those states because of the storage requirements — which still might be difficult.
  • The word "FUBAR" comes to mind when thinking about the vaccination process for the next two to four months as things get sorted out and a vaccination rhythm is finally developed. 
  • On a final note, I've only contacted a handful of emergency management agencies, but they don't seem to be in the loop yet on vaccinations. Also not a good sign. 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.