A Vaccine Has Arrived and the U.S. Is Still Screwing Up
Magical thinking doesn’t work to stop pandemics
I really don’t know why anyone is surprised by recent revelations about Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing and distribution snafus. For nine months, our government has failed to create working supply chains for both testing and personal protective equipment (PPE). We still lack raw materials, manufacturing capability, data on need, logistics, price supports, and equitable distribution. Why would we expect vaccines to be different?
Back in March, many of us called out that the health care supply chain was broken. I wrote about it with Ashish K. Jha and Valerie Griffeth in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nothing that we talked about or called for has been fixed. Instead, the feds developed a mess of a system to meet our health care systems’ PPE, testing, and other supply chain needs — a “fumbling” effort by “inexperienced” people with no background in supply chain logistics, manufacturing, disaster preparedness, or health care.
We learned very early in this pandemic that our national strategy was one of bluster and photo ops — not one of doing the hard work to get supplies into the hands of those who need them.
Alarm bells have been ringing for months about the lack of strategy for vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and messaging.
In the face of immediate need for PPE, we set up workarounds — groups like Get Us PPE developed data networks and equitable distribution strategies. For testing, the country relied on public-private partnerships, like Rhode Island’s (and other states’) partnership with CVS.
But let’s be clear: these efforts are simply substitutes for a federal strategy.
They are in no way equivalent to a good, organized, 50-state, publicly funded effort — which brings me to vaccines. Alarm bells have been ringing for months about the lack of strategy for vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and messaging.