The good news is the vaccine is here, and lots of people are getting it. The bad news is that if we keep vaccinating people at the current rate, it will take several years to get to everyone.
While federal officials had hoped to administer the first dose of the vaccine to 20 million people by the end of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that just 2.8 million people have received it so far. That low number may be due to delays in reporting, according to the New York Times, but it’s clear that it’s nowhere near the original goal.
There are a few reasons why that may be: The Times reports that some states have “held back” doses of the vaccine intended for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, whose residents and staff were supposed to be among those first in line to receive them. The fact that the vaccine became available around the holidays has been unfortunate timing as well, since this time of the year usually means reduced staff and clinic hours.
But it seems that a significant portion of the blame can be placed on federal government officials (shocking, I know), who saddled local health departments and hospitals with figuring out how to distribute the vaccine, rather than tackling the logistics themselves.
The result has been a frighteningly slow Operation Warp Speed.
It became clear fairly quickly that neither our federal government nor our flawed healthcare system was equipped to vaccinate the population with the speed and efficiency promised by such a title. In a recent piece, Atlantic writer Sarah Zhang said that over the next several months Americans would experience a “vaccine purgatory,” a painstaking period of time during most of us will be waiting to get vaccinated, and all of us will be impatient for “normal” life to resume. She estimated this stretch of time would last six months, but admitted that “the biggest unknown is how long we will be left in purgatory.”
By now, many of us have learned to manage our expectations when it comes to the pandemic: In March, some of us thought the pandemic would be over by summer; when summer came, we fixed our sights on winter. And with the vaccine’s arrival at year’s end, mid- to late-2021 has started to seem like the time when, finally, things will get better. But we could very well be proven wrong again.
The head of Operation Warp Speed, Gen. Gustave F. Perna, said we can expect to see a “rate of acceleration” over the next few weeks with regards to the vaccine rollout. I certainly hope he’s right!