Opinion

Feds Should Launch Massive Vaccine Effort

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Posted: Jan 13, 2021 6:00 PM
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Feds Should Launch Massive Vaccine Effort

Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Americans are stressing out over how long they'll have to endure isolation, closed businesses and fear of COVID-19. It all hinges on getting vaccinated. Yet, only one-third of doses shipped to the states are actually making it into people's arms. The public hears the wait will be many months. Most states are failing miserably.

Meanwhile, Washington pols are fighting over punishing President Donald Trump. They need to choose -- vengeance or vaccines -- and turn their attention to rolling out a massive emergency vaccination distribution staged by the federal government at malls, arenas and other public spaces.

Members of Congress have already received their shots. They need reminding that the rest of us need ours. It's how we get our lives back.

To achieve broad immunity by midsummer, at least 1.8 million people need to be vaccinated every day from now until the end of May, according to the American Hospital Association. So far, less than half that target is being met.

Even President-elect Joe Biden's headline-grabbing promise to deliver 100 million shots into arms during his first 100 days won't get America back to normal by summer.

In Southern California, nearly all ICU beds are full, and oxygen supplies are running low. Doctors are scoring COVID-19 patients based on overall health status to reserve treatments and ICU beds for those most likely to survive.

Yet, California has managed to use only 28% of its vaccines as of Monday. Arizona's used only 24%, even though it has the highest infection rate in the U.S.

That's proof that a wartime-like federal vaccination effort is needed. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, says relying on the states "is not working" and it's time to "hit the reset" and vaccinate broader categories of Americans fast.

It's New York's best hope, too. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo's rigid vaccine priority scheme, he predicts it will take 14 weeks more to vaccinate the groups currently eligible - health care workers, nursing home residents, public employees and adults 75 and over. That means seniors ages 65 to 74 and people with health conditions, who are next in line, have to wait until late spring for their shots. The general public won't get vaccinated until midsummer.

Cuomo's timetable would destroy New York City. Until the public is broadly inoculated, office workers won't feel safe riding subways and returning to work. The city's financial sector, and its restaurants and shops, will die.

Cuomo blames the slow vaccine schedule on a lack of supply. That's a lie. As of Monday, New York had injected only 41% of its supply into people's arms.

Cuomo, alongside California's Gavin Newsom and six other governors, is trying to pull a fast one, attributing their failures to the federal government. They sent Biden a letter calling it "unconscionable" that the feds are holding back half the vaccine supply.

The truth is, the supply was being held to make sure it's available when people who have received their first shot are ready for the second one. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced several weeks apart. Now that manufacturers seem able to produce vaccines on a steady schedule, some of that federal supply will be released.

But releasing it won't fix the chaos that has held up vaccinations. Supply was never the problem.

On Tuesday, the secretary of Health and Human Services urged states like New York to abandon their rigid schedules and start vaccinating people 65 and older and those with serious health problems as soon as possible. That's music to millions of ears, but don't count on states to get it done.

The vaccine rollout has been a disaster because states failed to prepare, despite having nine months' warning. Cuomo's now telling unions to figure out how to vaccinate their members themselves, as if he just heard about the vaccines yesterday.

Our survival shouldn't depend on these incompetent governors. Washington needs to act now.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Contact her at betsy@betsymccaughey.com or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.