It’s no secret that Donald Trump wished Covid would disappear “like a miracle.” Tragically, he denied the devastating effects of the pandemic and failed to respond with urgency or effectiveness, resulting in the deaths of 350,000 Americans by year’s end. To his credit, he did take up the cause of producing a vaccine, and promoted its rapid development. But he focused his characteristically limited attention span on taking credit for announcing Operation Warp Speed. He had no interest in a carefully developed plan to distribute an approved vaccine.
The Trump Administration promised availability of 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of December. It also promised to vaccinate 20 million high priority front line workers, retirement home residents and their caregivers by then. Regrettably, it delivered just 14 million doses to states, which then had to scramble to get the vaccine into arms. They managed to vaccinate only about 4.2 million.
The Missing Vaccination Program
To emphasize the obvious, there is no federal vaccination program. This spectacular failure is an example of Trump’s management philosophy—take no responsibility and let the buck stop somewhere else. That explains his refusal to develop a national program to manage the pandemic. It was better for his image to let the burden fall on the states. He could remain blameless while the governors looked incompetent for having inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and a bungled, insufficient testing and tracing program.
The vaccination program is essentially a repetition of Trump’s approach to managing, or more accurately, not managing the pandemic. Vaccines are of no value until they are actually injected into someone’s arm, but that basic principle has been completely ignored. Perhaps this President finds that too complicated, despite boasting he can remember the names of five objects. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to assume that much responsibility. Whatever fatal flaw is the cause, the end result is no national program for the distribution and administration of vaccines. There was ample time to prepare. Vaccine development has been in the works since March, and any competent administration, particularly one eager to get credit, wouldn’t have decided to leave it to each state to develop a distribution plan for counties, cities and rural areas.
So the fine mess we’re in is easy to explain. Each state must recreate the proverbial wheel for mass distribution, getting it to vaccination centers, or creating them, and getting people notified and vaccinated. Unfortunately, many states don’t have that capability, or their governor is unable or unwilling to grasp the dire consequences of the pandemic and how to contain it. Take Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis—please.
The Worst Governors
In the beginning, DeSantis acted responsibly, preventing visitors from entering nursing homes and long term care facilities. But as the pandemic progressed, he flouted the most recommended and common sense precaution—wearing a mask—going so far as to ban localities from enforcing mask mandate violations. Worse, he downplayed the pandemic’s impact by concealing negative statistics. He was arrogantly goose stepping with Trump, putting politics above the lives of his constituents.
However, it may shock you to learn that DeSantis has competition for the most despicable governor. The governors of North Dakota and South Dakota must share that honor. A short while ago, the latter two executives competed for the most Covid 19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. But no one should be surprised, given their refusal to mandate the wearing of masks and prohibit large gatherings. Apparently they thought CDC guidelines didn’t apply to them.
I cite DeSantis because he is the textbook example that proves a national vaccine distribution program is necessary. In his inimitable wisdom, DeSantis made a calculated decision to ignore the recommended guidelines prioritizing groups of people to receive the vaccine. Even though many health care workers had not yet been vaccinated, DeSantis decided to skip over essential workers like teachers and police officers, as well as seniors 75 and older. Instead, he made the vaccine available to the general population of those 65 and older on a first come first served basis. Without carefully organizing vaccination locations, appointment procedures and technology to record and track those vaccinated, the result has been chaotic. There are long lines, with many seniors waiting hours, or even overnight, to be vaccinated.
The Country’s Needs
We are a country of some 331 million people. Unless we address the unexciting, but critical supply and logistical issues, this pandemic is going to be around far longer than it need be. Apparently there is a shortage of certain raw materials required in the manufacture of these vaccines. Invoking the Defense Production Act could resolve this issue, but the Great Leader refuses to do so. He’s too busy trying to destroy democracy.
Our new President will have more challenges than perhaps any other president in history. He must address the issue of vaccinating millions of individuals as quickly and effectively as possible. How much more efficient would it be if knowledgeable public health experts developed a national template from which each state could then adapt to its particular circumstances. It could include vaccination sites at state and local locations like football and baseball stadiums, arenas, conventions centers and other large facilities where thousands could be vaccinated safely and efficiently. Those awaiting vaccination could easily register or be contacted.
There would be standardized procedures to recruit necessary personnel, manage the site, the delivery and appropriate storage of the different vaccines and the technology systems to store private information. A separate mobile plan to reach rural areas or other population centers without readily accessible vaccination sites would also need to be developed. Limiting access to CVS or Walgreens, as one can do with a flu vaccine will not cut it. This is so much more complicated and urgent. And the need is just too great.
Another major issue is funding. Virtually every state has lost revenue due to the pandemic’s negative economic impact. Yet Trump and his Republican sycophants callously expect the states to fund this extraordinary endeavor. Yes, the newly passed stimulus package includes about $9 billion for states to distribute and administer the vaccine. But that amount is woefully insufficient to develop the technology and trained personnel to get the job done.
Trump and the Biden Transition
Right on cue, last Wednesday morning, in the midst of his daily diatribes plotting the unconstitutional overthrow of the democratic election, His Whineyness jumped into Blame Mode, tweeting, “The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!” We are so fortunate to have such a hands on President protecting us.
This is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. While I suspect the Biden Transition Team is addressing this issue, they are playing catch-up in developing and implementing a national program. Aside from significant logistical issues, Biden will face a potentially hostile Senate that will undoubtedly become virtuous about the need to bring the deficit under control. That is why the two Georgia Senate seats to be voted on today are crucially important to the country’s health, the ability of the Biden administration to get things done, and for democracy in general.