One of the logistical problems with ramping up the national vaccination program is getting it staffed, especially with doctors and nurses preoccupied with treating COVID patients at hospitals. There’s an obvious source of manpower that could fill that vacuum, one we don’t normally tap for civilian tasks but which we *do* routinely tap for urgent national emergencies.
I’d say we’ve reached the point of “urgent national emergency.” Between the fact that the U.S. death toll from the virus now exceeds the U.S. death toll from World War II and the emergence of several foreign variants that are more resistant to the current vaccines, the need to get everyone immunized is as pressing as it’s ever been.
So here we are. Boots on the ground, shots in the arms.
The figure [450,000 more shots per day] is included in a draft agreement between the [Pentagon and FEMA] viewed by CNN that also calls for the deployment of 10,000 troops at 100 vaccination centers across the United States that would run through at least February 26 as a start…
The draft plan calls for an incremental build-up of forces that would quickly lead to 50 vaccination teams, each capable of administering 6,000 shots a day, and another 50 teams capable of administering 3,000 shots per day.
Vaccination operations at the 100 designated locations would run 16 hours a day with two eight-hour shifts. As soon as the agreement is finalized, the troops would be placed on orders to be prepared to deploy within 96 hours…
The effort could also involve using both active duty and National Guard forces. Part of the discussion includes agreeing on what the most urgent tasks they can handle are, two defense officials told CNN.
The National Guard is already delivering 50,000 shots per day nationally, with a ninefold increase in the works if the FEMA/military deal comes off. And according to the Bloomberg tracker, that could have us knocking on the door of two million daily doses:
We did 1.7 million doses yesterday and we’re at 1.6 million today as I write this, with six hours left to go. The military effort could increase vaccinations by 25 percent, in other words, assuming the feds can keep the supply coming. And at a clip of two million doses a day, we could theoretically have around half the country fully vaccinated sometime this summer — potentially even more once Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine reaches the market.
Even getting the first dose into people should start putting a dent in transmissions:
Large (~504K persons), real-world mRNA C19 vax data from Israel: ~51.4%↓ in PCR-confirmed C19 infection 13-24 days after immunization with the 1st dose, ONLY, using the preceding 1-12 days as a reference. (44.5%↓ in those >=60yo; 50.2%↓ in those <60yo) https://t.co/GI0Y5DngU4 pic.twitter.com/44nUNGDS8S
— Andrew Bostom, MD, MS (@andrewbostom) January 29, 2021
An interesting what-if is whether Trump’s team would have made this move to deploy the military if he’d won a second term. The Trump administration preferred to let the states handle logistics whereas Biden is more willing to be proactive at the federal level, starting with setting up those “vaccination centers” described above. But as the media is beginning to notice, for all the scorn aimed at Trump’s approach by Team Biden, their own vaccination strategy is substantially similar. “Biden Covid Team Derides Trump Plan While Borrowing Playbook,” reads a provocative headline from Bloomberg:
The Biden administration has said they’ll order new doses, but will do so by exercising options in contracts negotiated by the previous administration, which thought it premature to do so. They say they’ll use the Defense Production Act, which Trump used repeatedly. Rather than a total overhaul, they have otherwise made course corrections and modest shifts. The Biden administration has said they’ll order new doses, but will do so by exercising options in contracts negotiated by the previous administration, which thought it premature to do so. They say they’ll use the Defense Production Act, which Trump used repeatedly. Rather than a total overhaul, they have otherwise made course corrections and modest shifts…
Many of the most stubborn bottlenecks don’t stem from the federal government’s decisions: Companies simply can’t produce vaccines fast enough and supplies are scarce; even if distribution goes smoothly, the administration of doses gets backed up at the local level.
“What we’re seeing here is them marching through the playbook of Operation Warp Speed,” added Michael Pratt, a former Health and Human Services official under Trump. “Something cannot simultaneously be a dismal failure and have already accomplished the ‘ambitious goal’ you set.”
Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Operation Warp Speed, sounded irritated when he spoke to Bloomberg. “The team doesn’t understand why the Operation is being criticized as it is. It is so unfair and unjustified,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this Operation, we may not have as many vaccines as we will now.” The fact that we’re at 160 percent of Biden’s initial target of one million doses per day on his ninth day on the job is obviously a success more justly attributed to Trump’s team than to Sleepy Joe’s.
I assume there’ll be some dopey but hopefully limited backlash to the military/FEMA deployment along the lines of the freakout about Jade Helm in 2015. Ron DeSantis has already said no thanks to “FEMA camps” in his state, which is an interesting term for vaccination hubs. If nothing else, the military deployment will give QAnoners a few months of message-board material, trying to figure out what the troops are *really* doing on Biden’s orders. In lieu of an exit question, read this surprisingly cheery piece at The Atlantic about how people should behave after getting vaccinated. You know what most experts say to that: Continue to take precautions. Wear the mask and socially distance until the end of the pandemic. Not this piece. The whole point of being immunized, argues epidemiologist Julia Marcus, is to regain some semblance of normalcy. Vaccinated people should get together with friends again — and in fact, telling them they shouldn’t might discourage them from getting the shot, leading them to believe there’s really no point. I’m looking forward to the expert consensus shifting to that position but I fear we’re still months away.