Happy New Year to everyone, readers.
It’s good to be back in your inbox after the holidays. It seems a little strange given the events of the last 24 hours. But a pandemic does not end with a cycle of policy news, as dark as it is. In fact, it is inextricably linked to the decisions of our leaders.
I’m not just talking about political leaders, although they play a critical role that they have often flouted, including with the mainstream rate of COVID vaccine distribution. We’re starting to see the problems of the last mile, the ultimate delivery of a product to one person, that come with such an ambitious vaccination campaign.
Earlier today, the American Hospital Association (AHA) say it frankly in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar: “There was a big party in America’s hospitals and health systems last month as we administered the first vaccines to our brave clinical staff who worked to save the lives of patients with COVID-19. But the slow roll-out of the vaccine has led to concerns over whether the task of vaccinating anyone who is able to get vaccinated will be done as quickly as federal leaders have suggested.
There are a lot of issues leading up to this moment, and I will have a more comprehensive report in the next few days. But here’s just a sample of the problems: How do you make sure there are enough syringes and glass vials to dispense the vaccine? It is a problem that could be solved by the Defense Production Act (DPA), which can mobilize companies to manufacture critical components. Trump administration officials have previously said the DPA is already being deployed.
Then there is the logistical question of what vaccine someone can actually receive and how records of those vaccines are kept. Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID vaccine has a set of requirements. Moderna’s vaccine has another, with less stringent cooling requirements.
This is an important factor in how these vaccines will be distributed. For example, would a rural health system receive Moderna rather than Pfizer’s vaccine, while larger health systems would receive the latter because of their operational capacity? And how exactly do electronic health record providers and logistics companies make sure things don’t break down along the supply chain?
Much more on this soon. Read on for today’s news and see you next week.