WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite the lightning-fast development of several COVID-19 vaccines, Operation Warp Speed is now hitting speed bumps when it comes to actually administering the needed shots.
“The issue is not the supply of the vaccine; the issue is not being able to get enough people injected with the vaccine,” said Dr. David Shulkin, former secretary of veterans affairs.
The federal government set a goal of having 20 million people vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2020, starting with health care workers and the elderly in December.
Yet, according to the CDC, nearly two weeks into the new year, only 8 million people have received an initial dose and the numbers are even smaller for those who have received the second, required follow-up shot: just over 272,000.
So, what’s causing the delay?
“Indications are that it's all along the supply chain,” said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, Professor at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and executive director of PHICOR (Public Health Informatics, Computational and Operations Research). He is also a senior contributor to Forbes magazine.
Dr. Lee said the delay lies with both the federal government and the states.
“There's not enough delivered to the states,” he said, “and then, you can see there's this discrepancy between the number of doses that were delivered to the states, according to the tracker, and the number of doses that were administered.”
However, Dr. Lee says why that is happening isn’t clear at any government level.
“There is not enough transparency in terms of where the issues are and where the problems are because if you don't have that transparency, you can't solve the problem,” he said.
The solution, he said, would involve more federal involvement.
“Ultimately, this is a national concern,” Dr. Lee said. “So, the federal government needs to organize and coordinate the entire vaccine supply chain.”
As it stands now, the timeline for when everyone can get the vaccine is getting pushed further back. Even if a million people get vaccinated every day, which isn’t even close to happening right now, it would take about six months for the shot to reach just half of the country’s 330 million people.
“There are lives that we will continue to lose that we could have saved,” Dr. Lee said. “So, this is really, really serious business.”
It is a health crisis that could continue to stretch well into 2021.