It has been almost a year since our COVID-19 nightmare began. According to the CDC, we have lost almost 500,000 people. The virus knows no boundaries and kills without regard for age, race, political affiliation or hometown.

It is not just a United States problem, but a world health problem. Some of the best scientific minds in the world have helped to develop a vaccine that could possibly save lives.

It could, if we could get enough people vaccinated, that is.

We are currently experiencing shortages of the vaccine and distribution in most states has been sporadic at best.

 It is not just here in America that the issue exists.

Drug companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca announced they would miss their European delivery target. Some countries wanted immediate answers as to why that was happening. They ran into a roadblock. The secrecy surrounding contracts between the drug companies and governments makes it impossible to get answers.

There are current investigations underway to determine what is happening because governments have poured billions of dollars into helping drug companies develop vaccines and are spending billions more to buy doses.

The United States committed up to $1.6 billion to help Novavax develop its vaccine. Moderna used government-developed technology as the foundation for its vaccine and received $1 billion in government grants to develop the drug.

The US government then placed an order for 1.5 billion doses. These arrangements were designed to sped up manufacturing and cover clinical testing costs.

Even though these are taxpayer dollar investments, the drug companies own the patents. The companies get to decide how and where the vaccines get manufactured and the costs associated with it. Here in America, drug companies are shielded from nearly all liability if their vaccines do not work or causes serious side effects.

Whoever negotiated that deal should have insisted on a timely schedule for vaccine distribution by the drug companies.

Health experts are urging states and the federal government to speed up vaccination distribution.

Because the federal government left each state to create its own plans for locally distributing the shots, there are fifty different plans floating around out there.

The states were already struggling due to lack of funds and a healthcare workforce stretched to their limits by the sickness and death of patients created by the pandemic.

There is reportedly a nationwide shortage of the vaccine and states are scrambling to get all the available doses they can get.

The rollout of the vaccine itself has not been without issues. Thousands of vaccine doses have been wasted since shipments began in December. According to government officials, the reasons vary from doctors leaving vials out too long, left- over doses not being stored properly and temperature issues related to transporting the vaccine.

Even though the CDC provides guidelines about who gets the shots, the states make up their own rules about distribution.

And those are all over the place. Adding to providers already overwhelming problems is the knowledge that once a vial is opened, it needs to be used within six hours or it must be disposed of. Nurses, doctors and pharmacists are making decisions to give them to anyone who happens to be around rather than waste them.

That decision has led to some frustration and anger among states’ residents.

In one Florida county, officials decided not to use an appointment -based system and some seniors had to spend up to seven hours, some overnight, in line to get vaccinated.

A Kansas psychiatrist decided to cut the line to go ahead of front- line workers by allowing his friends, who included actors, financial advisors and ex-wife, to receive vaccines after they reportedly stated they worked for him.

One hospital allowed its boards members and fundraising committee members to jump to the front of the line that was supposed to include first responders and the elderly.

NBA legend Charles Barkley reportedly said recently that athletes should get “preferential treatment” for the vaccine based on how much taxes they pay. What a jerk!

A recent CDC report shows Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina have the lowest percentage of vaccinated population. That is not a list we need to be on.

If the current slow pace of getting vaccines from manufacturers into the arms of our citizens continues, it will lead to lower levels of protected individuals. With the discovery of a new variant of the virus, our situation could become dire very quickly.

The Biden administration says they plan to set up thousands of mass-vaccination centers using the National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While that sounds like a great plan, unless you can get these manufacturers to agree to commit to a specified production amount and ensure they honor it, all these plans will be useless.

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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