EDITORIAL: Use counties to help roll out vaccine

Nyeesha Thompson of Ellis Medicine in Schenectady gives a flu vaccine, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.
Nyeesha Thompson of Ellis Medicine in Schenectady gives a flu vaccine, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.

The Trump administration, and hopefully the chaos that’s characterized its final days, will be over shortly.

But the chaos caused by the coronavirus will be with us a long time, even longer if the state doesn’t get a handle on the distribution of the vaccine.

So far, the roll-out has been a disaster, with the state only distributing a portion of its allocation.

Earlier this week, the governor put the blame largely on hospitals, which have been hamstrung by conflicting directions from the state and by the fact that they’re not really set up to distribute vaccines quickly to a large population.

The governor’s answer was to threaten them with heavy fines and taking away any future supplies of vaccine. We instead recommended more cooperation between state health officials and hospitals.

But there’s another way to get them out to the most people as quickly as possible that doesn’t involve creating any new processes or bureaucracies: Implement the plans that counties already have in place for dealing with epidemics and pandemics.

What? You mean there are already plans in place for distributing vaccines? And the counties have been practicing the distribution of vaccines for years? And these counties could be very helpful in distributing the vaccine?

The answer to all these questions is yes.

The answer we don’t have — and which officials from the New York Association of Counties and individual county administrators have been asking lately — is why aren’t these resources being used?

One county had to ask the state for special permission to redirect some of its local hospitals’ vaccine shipments to a county distribution site. As a result, the county was able to vaccinate more than 1,100 residents.

Clearly, it’s not totally the state’s fault that it hasn’t received a greater number of shipments of covid vaccines.

The federal roll-out of the vaccines has been slow and convoluted.

But the state does have control over the supplies of vaccine that it does have.

And if it wants to make sure that health care workers, nursing home patients, other essential workers and the general public get vaccinated, it needs to avail itself of all the resources at its disposal.

That means working with hospitals to address their problems with the vaccinations, and it means coordinating with the state’s 62 counties and their respective health departments to get the shots in people’s arms.

We know this whole thing is new. And we know there’s a lot of confusion and disagreement out there about how best to distribute the vaccine.

But where the resources are ready and available, the state should make the best use of them.

It can’t afford to waste any more time.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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