Foss: Slow vaccine rollout cause for alarm

Mohawk Ambulance EMT Keenan Kodesch receives his Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Schenectady School District Nurse Manager and volunteer Holly Vacca last week.
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Mohawk Ambulance EMT Keenan Kodesch receives his Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Schenectady School District Nurse Manager and volunteer Holly Vacca last week.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss

It is not enough to have a COVID-19 vaccine. 

You have to actually get it into people’s arms. 

The stories and pictures of front-line workers receiving the vaccine have been heartening – a reason to cheer as we usher in a new and hopefully better year. 

But the coronavirus vaccine rollout has been painfully slow, falling well short of expectations and raising questions about whether the U.S. will be able to vaccinate enough Americans to achieve herd immunity in 2021. 

The problem isn’t just a lack of doses. 

It’s also logistical in nature, with states struggling to get doses out to residents in a timely fashion. 

In early December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believed New York could be a national leader in vaccine distribution, telling reporters, “My goal, for this state, is to have the fastest, most effective vaccination program in the United States.” 

That’s a good goal, but New York has a long way to go to be considered any kind of model for how to vaccinate lots of people quickly. 

As of December 30, the Empire State had received 682,425 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but only 140,676 New Yorkers had gotten their initial dose, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  

That means less than 1 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated – an unacceptably sluggish pace that needs to be picked up ASAP. 

Unfortunately, New York isn’t an outlier. 

The vaccine rollout has been almost universally slow, with the CDC reporting that only about 2.7 million of the 12.4 million doses distributed thus far have been administered. 

In a country with 300 million people, this is not a cause for celebration, but rather a reason for alarm. 

Public health experts estimate that between 80 to 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to attain herd immunity, which occurs when enough people are immune to a disease through vaccination or prior illness to break the chain of infection. 

At our current, slow-as-molasses rate of vaccination, it would take a decade to hit that milestone. 

Do you want to wait that long to rid ourselves of COVID-19? 

I sure don’t.  

So far, our vaccine distribution has been a disaster – woefully, embarrassingly inadequate. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

New York can still become a national leader in vaccine distribution, but only if the governor gives the idea more than lip service. 

The vaccine is a triumph of science and ingenuity. 

But it won’t do much good unless we can get it into people’s arms, the sooner the better. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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