Right now, humankind is witnessing the greatest vaccination effort in history. More than 15.9 million doses in 37 countries have been delivered thus far. Getting that number into the billions will be one of the most momentous logistical undertakings ever achieved.
In many countries, the vaccination effort is being criticized for being too sluggish to effectively prevent the continuing spread of COVID-19. “Experts are calling for a sharply stepped-up national approach,” an ABC news report states.
Here in the United States, for example, the Food and Drug Administration supplied fact sheets as “assembly instructions” for preparing the concentrated vaccine doses, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided educational materials to hospitals. However, states and facilities are left to decipher how to actually get the vaccinations to their patients.
“There are changes that could speed up the pace and meet the goal of vaccinating the vast majority of the population needed to stop the spread of the virus through herd immunity,” Dr. Peter Hotez, Codirector of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told ABC. “Vaccinating millions of people in a matter of months requires more infrastructure than sending people to their local hospital or pharmacies.”
He notes that the federal government can help states and cities open mass vaccination sites; set clear goals on how many people need to be vaccinated each day; and put less emphasis on phased eligibility, if doing so interferes with that timeline.
Meanwhile in Europe, the Dutch government has come under heavy criticism over a COVID-19 vaccination plan that made the Netherlands the “vaccination straggler.” Britain has released a second vaccine, while staring down a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks, according to the Associated Press: “Authorities struggle to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections and relieve hospitals, where some patients are left waiting in ambulances in a parking lot for access to overcrowded wards.”
In Latin America, the AP says many experts believe the worst has yet to come. Mexico City today has more COVID-19 patients than ever before. In Brazil, the number of intensive-care patients reached its highest level since August — and the nation still hasn’t approved a vaccine.
In Africa, Zimbabwe has reinstated curfews, prohibited public gatherings and indefinitely postponed school openings. South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit nation, is wrestling with another severe variant of the virus.
Many Asian countries that had been improving are now seeing that progress begin to slide. Infections in Thailand are surging as a result of “complacency and poor planning.” Japan has declared a state of emergency and has reinforced border controls after a swell of cases around New Year’s Eve. And China is closing schools early for Lunar New Year and has instructed migrant workers not to go home for the holiday.
Saving lives together
The only effective way to counteract a global pandemic is with a global response. Lessons learned from the supply chain disruptions of 2020 must now be absorbed and applied to the vaccine distribution effort. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. We even seem to be making some of the same mistakes that impeded the initial response.
Vaccinating the world requires a truly coordinated effort. And to achieve this goal, there’s undoubtedly a lot to consider. I look forward talking more about this on Tuesday, January 12, at 3:30 p.m. CST. ASCM Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Rennie and I will be on LinkedIn Live to continue the discussion. Follow the ASCM LinkedIn page, and join us.