The Corner

Politics & Policy

Rewarding Incompetence in State Vaccination Efforts

A nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Bathgate Post Office vaccination facility in Bronx, N.Y., January 10, 2021. (Kevin Hagen/Reuters Pool)

Back on December 30, West Virginia led the country in the pace of its COVID-19 vaccinations. On that date, the state and its health authorities had administered more than half of their allocated 60,875 doses. At the bottom of the chart at the end of the year was Maryland, which had administered just over 10 percent of its 191,075 doses.

Nearly three weeks later, West Virginia is the second-best in the country, having administered 74 percent of its allocated doses, behind only North Dakota at 77 percent. In some good news for Marylanders, state health authorities have now administered 255,000 of their increased allocation of 565,000 doses — 45 percent. That’s good enough for Maryland to rank 35th among the 50 states — not great, but a lot better than where it was three weeks ago. Maryland’s vaccination capacity and speed probably isn’t where anyone would like it to be, but it’s getting better.

Now the state at the bottom is Hawaii, which has administered just 46,958 of its allocated 154,150 doses. But the state just set up its first mass-vaccination site Monday, so perhaps the pace will pick up in the coming days.

Don’t let any state official blame a bad start for a slow rate of vaccination today; Maryland demonstrates that early problems can be overcome. But many states are still struggling. Take Pennsylvania as an example:

The state’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said last week that she would adopt the federal recommendation to lower the eligibility age to 65. That will jam more than 1 million people to the front of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccination line at a moment when the lumbering public health campaign is already marked by confusion, shifting priorities, a dearth of vaccine and — in some places — people to administer it, authorities say.

Pennsylvania has no central registry for the shots, forcing hospitals and pharmacies to create their own online spots for people to sign up…

On Thursday, the state health department announced agreements with two pharmacy chains that will allow vaccinations to be administered at some Giant Eagle grocery stores. But most independent drug stores continue to wait for state approval to give the shots, according to Kyle McCormick, pharmacist and owner of Blueberry Pharmacy in West View.

Moreover, there is confusion about who get shots first because of the recent changes in priorities, he said, and it’s not unusual for people who want to be vaccinated to “stretch the boundaries” in trying to qualify, turning pharmacists into bouncers.

Each pharmacy must apply individually for state approval, which requires review by the health department.

“We can get it in arms fast, but we’re all just waiting,” Mr. McCormick said about independent pharmacies.

What an inexcusably disorganized disaster, when everyone in the world knew, through much of 2020, that vaccines would be coming near or at the end of the year. The situation calls for every possible meme of “you had one job.”

Good thing Rachel Levine is just mismanaging one state’s vaccination response, and isn’t . . . wait a minute . . .

President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will nominate Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s top health official, as his assistant secretary of health. Levine, a pediatrician, would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

We’re in the very best of hands, America.

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