The Corner

Health Care

Pathetic: After Three Weeks, Biden and the States Have Used Just 53 Percent of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Coronavirus vaccine vials displaying the Johnson & Johnson logo, February 9, 2021 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Politico reports that three weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “2.3 million of the 4.3 million doses of the vaccine delivered have actually been administered.” That’s an abysmally disappointing 53.4 percent.

And, much like in the early weeks of the Moderna and Pfizer shots, no one is entirely sure what the holdup is.

Over the course of the last two weeks, senior Biden administration officials have met privately to try and determine what happened. Two senior administration officials believe states are conserving their J&J supplies until there’s enough to reach underserved communities and specific groups, like teachers or the disabled. But multiple state officials say they’re using whatever they get as soon as they get it.

The notion of “conserving their J&J supplies until there’s enough to reach underserved communities and specific groups, like teachers or the disabled” makes no sense. You don’t reach underserved communities, or anyone, if you’re not using the doses. If you want to vaccinate more teachers or the disabled, open up the vaccination appointments to teachers or the disabled. Open up more sites. Operate them longer hours. Figure out where your target population is most densely clustered and bring the vaccine to that spot.

There is absolutely no public-health advantage to waiting around and stockpiling vaccine doses to be used sometime down the road. Why is this so difficult to grasp?

Overall, as of this morning, the United States has administered 79 percent of the vaccines distributed to states. That’s not bad, but not great, either. It’s been as low as 74 percent and as high as 83.9 percent, and that’s just in a week’s span in late February. States are thankfully getting shots into arms faster — we’re close to averaging 2.5 million doses administered per day — but the vaccine manufacturers are going gangbusters in production and delivery: “The U.S. monthly output for the three authorized vaccines is expected to reach 132 million doses for March, nearly triple the 48 million in February.”

Many conservatives will notice that the private sector, in charge of inventing and manufacturing the vaccines and delivering them to states, is doing a terrific job. The public sector, in charge of actually getting the vaccine doses into arms . . . is very hit-and-miss.

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