As has been well-established by this blog, the covid vaccine rollout has gotten off to a rocky start. In late December, it appeared that some people had already cut in line for the vaccine; that same week it was reported that a hospital employee in Wisconsin had intentionally destroyed 500 doses of the vaccine. But these are small setbacks compared to the massive failure of our government and healthcare system to administer the vaccine in anything remotely resembling to a timely manner.
Operation Warp Speed has so far demonstrated that it cannot fulfill the promise of its title, having only succeeded in vaccinating a fraction of the millions of people officials planned to by this time. Luckily, some people are finally starting to reflect on why the original plan has collapsed so quickly, and think about other ways to get people vaccinated sooner than, say, several years from now.
According to the New York Times, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed’s scientific adviser, has recommended giving some Americans two half-doses of the vaccine—rather than one full dose, the first in a two-dose regimen—in attempts to “possibly milk more immunity from the nation’s limited vaccine supply.” Experts abroad have suggested focusing primarily on distributing the first doses of the vaccine to a wider population rather than taking pains to ensure individuals receive their second doses when they’re supposed to.
“I would not be in favor of that,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a Friday interview with CNN. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Neither prospect fills me with great confidence. As a biostatistician in the Times piece points out, tinkering with the plans too much can erode the public’s trust in the process, which, I would say, has probably been eroded enough. In response to the painfully slow pace of the rollout, Fauci has said that there’s no reason the U.S. can’t vaccinate a million people per day. This may be strictly true, but currently it’s not happening, so perhaps we should try to figure out different strategies for making it so.
Mark Levine, a New York City councilmember and chair of the city’s health committee, has suggested requiring some clinics offering the vaccine to stay open 24/7 as one way to expedite the process. A (non-scientific, of course) Twitter poll he ran on his account showed that 91.7 percent of the 18,682 people who responded said they would happily go to a vaccination site at 1 a.m. Personally, I love this idea, and as a friend tweeted Sunday night—I can only imagine the unmatched vibes of getting a life-saving vaccine with a group of people in the middle of the night.