Not so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a miracle drug was developed. Well, maybe not so far away.
But it might as well be.
When Donald Trump finally took a moment out of his fog of deniability about the existence of the COVID-19 virus, he set about trying to get a vaccine manufactured and approved by the FDA. We did not mind that he did so in order to get credit for its development.
Being a person that resides in an alternative universe, he appropriately labeled the project, “Operation Warp Speed.”
Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
While the original goal of getting a vaccine developed and manufactured was accomplished, the last part of the initiative has hit a time warp.
The goal of the project was to produce and deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine with the initial doses distributed by January 2021.
As of last Wednesday, a whopping 14 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been sent out across the United States. However, the CDC reports that only approximately 4.5 million people have received the vaccine so far.
That number is a galaxy away from 300 million.
The chief scientific adviser of the project said he “agrees the number is lower than we hoped for.”
There was even a goal to have 20 million vaccinated by December 31. We did not make that one either.
General Gustave Perna, the logistical lead for the project said his team do not understand the delays.
In most businesses, if the logistics guy does not understand something, then there is real reason for concern.
So far, excuses include lags in reporting, the holiday season and winter weather.
It is pretty concerning that no one looked at a calendar when they were making projections for distribution.
In his usual tweet fashion, Trump blamed governors for the delay.
Some of the governors balked at that suggestion, saying they had not received enough money from the federal government to succeed in the vaccination process.
Some other factors, besides funding, being given as reasons for delays are that hospitals and other facilities administering the vaccines are still learning how to store the doses and administer them.
The new vaccine requires storage under -80 degrees and every facility does not have freezers that would allow the vaccine to be stored safely.
We also learned that officials set aside some doses for CVS and Walgreens to use at long-term care facilities. According to the federal government figures that could be up to a couple hundred million doses.
Apparently that number was included in the original estimate, but not specified as such.
General Perna said he takes sole responsibility for the confusion over allotment of the vaccines. He said he underestimated the time required to get the vaccine doses approved for distribution to the states. He said his plan “looked good on paper.”
President-elect Joe Biden says he will use the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed for the vaccines and protective gear. The Trump administration has already used that law to speed up manufacturing, so it is not clear what Biden thinks he can do differently than Trump has already done in that regard.
He has also promised to administer 100 million doses in the first 100 days of his term. Surely, he will understand if we wait and see if he can put his money where his mouth is on that.
A review by NBC News found that at the current rate, it will take almost 10 years to vaccinate enough Americans to get the pandemic under control.
Our country’s current vaccine distribution system was not set up for such a massive undertaking and we should never have been told to expect it in a timely manner.
Most of the focus was on development and testing of the new vaccine. Discussions about how they would be distributed seems to be a real failure.
A separate study on distribution should have been part of the original plan. Expecting the current distribution system to work would be like increasing a press run from 10,000 to 20,000 papers without increasing the number of carriers to ensure that it is delivered it on time.
Current vaccine supply chains are not designed to vaccinate so many people so quickly and that could be why we are where we are today in the vaccination process.
Even though the pace of distribution has been slower than originally anticipated, the federal government is sticking by its timeline for broad public access to a vaccine by April 2021.
Just in time for April fools!
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.