New York is sitting on 2/3 of the vaccine doses it's received

As we discussed yesterday, Florida has been running into massive problems in trying to get enough doses of vaccine for all the senior citizens signing up to be inoculated. Far to the north, in New York State, pretty much the opposite problem is being encountered. Large numbers of vials of vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna have been arriving in the Empire State. The problem is, they aren’t being injected into hopeful patients at anywhere near an acceptable rate. As of the end of the year, 630,000 doses have been received, but barely 200,000 have been administered. This has a lot of people, particularly healthcare workers and nursing home residents, asking what the holdup is and who is actually in charge of this mess. (NY Post)

New York has administered less than a third of the coronavirus vaccine doses it has on hand so far — even as Mayor de Blasio boldly claimed Thursday he’d have a million city residents inoculated within a month.

Around 630,000 vaccine doses have been sent to the Empire State, but just 203,000 doses had actually made their way into New Yorkers’ arms as of Wednesday, state data shows…

In New York City, some 88,000 people have received a first dose over the last three weeks, as the vaccine began being administered to health care workers and nursing home residents.

“We are far, far behind where we need to be,” said Councilman Mark Levine, chairman of the New York City Health Committee.

As the New York Post editorial board points out, while this highlights the ineptitude of the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations, it’s sadly not simply a local problem. Pfizer and Moderna had shipped 12.4 million doses around the entire country by the end of the year but only 3.1 million had been administered.

This clearly isn’t happening due to a lack of demand, as we saw in Florida this week. While there have been significant pockets of resistance to getting the vaccine among nurses and other frontline medical personnel (which is worrisome enough in its own right), there are many senior citizens who seem to be champing at the bit to roll up their sleeves. A recent survey showed that patients with serious respiratory issues and other underlying conditions were similarly inclined to take their chances with the injections rather than risk a potentially fatal dose of COVID.

What we’re seeing here is almost certainly a combination of a lack of planning and administrative bungling. One problem in New York is that the state has been directing the pharmacies, hospitals and clinics to hold back a second shot for everyone who receives their first dose. That means that they have to store half of the vials they receive for up to a month to ensure that a second dose is available for the patient after the required waiting period.

But does that make any sense? At least on the national level, the government has been working with Moderna and Pfizer to develop accurate forecasts of how many vials they can produce per day and where all of them are going. Barring some major breakdown on the production lines, each state should know how many vials they expect to receive per week. So why not continue administering all of the initial doses to anyone on the priority list who asks and then, beginning three or four weeks later, hold back the number needed for a second dose for all the patients who’ve already gotten their first shot?

The logistics of such a plan really come down to nothing more than basic addition and subtraction so it shouldn’t be that hard to manage. Plus, we would gain the added benefit of outlets like CVS not having to store huge numbers of vials of the very fragile vaccine for up to a month at a time. That should minimize the losses if a refrigeration unit fails or some psychopath intentionally spoils a whole batch of them.

I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse here, but how was this not all worked out long before now? We knew months ahead of time that multiple pharmaceutical companies were nearing the finish line on developing vaccines and starting their testing trials. Even if every one of them had failed during testing, it should still have been common sense to be developing a fully-formed plan for distribution on the assumption that there would be a viable, approved vaccine at some point, right? The staggering incompetence of the bureaucracy appears to be fully on display here and it’s almost inevitable that some of our rank and file citizens will be paying for those screwups with their lives.