The COVID vaccines are a lot of things. A testament to the ingenuity, rigor and resolve of the scientists who created them, and the people who for years have studied infectious disease. A lifesaver potentially for tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans. Our best hope for getting back to normal in 2021.

But a vaccine is worthless until it goes into someone’s arm – and that simply is not happening fast enough.

The slow distribution of the vaccines is yet another example of the Trump administration’s failure to competently direct the response to COVID-19 – when they acknowledge its existence at all.

Operation Warp Speed has produced a vaccine in record time, but that’s a testament to those who made it happen: scientists and pharmaceutical companies. It was President Trump’s job to ensure that once a vaccine was created, it could be quickly distributed and administered. At that, he has utterly failed.

In September, Trump promised 100 million doses of a vaccine by the end of the year. Later, he reduced that promise to 20 million doses – and could not even meet that.

Just 12.4 million doses were sent to states by Dec. 31. At that pace, it would take 10 years to give the necessary two doses to enough Americans to reach herd immunity.

And delivering the vaccine is the easy part. The Trump administration put little work into a the logistics of administering the vaccine – there is no national strategy, and there has been little financial support for the states. So, now exhausted hospital workers and public health officials are being asked to shoulder the burden.

So even once the doses are delivered, there’s no guarantee they will be administered quickly. As of Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, about 5 million of the nearly 18 million doses delivered had been used. Maine, one of the fastest states at administering the vaccine, had only used a little over half of its stock.

Besides prolonging the pandemic, the scarcity of the vaccine also is making it more difficult to decide who should get it.

Maine is now in Phase 1A of its vaccination protocol, with health care workers and nursing home staff and residents getting their shots. State officials have already created a Phase 1B, for those 75 and older as well as essential workers, such as police, grocery store and postal employees, and teachers.

But that plan has been criticized for not prioritizing enough the state’s oldest residents, so the state is considering moving them up the line.

If vaccines were being administered at the necessary pace, it wouldn’t matter which highly vulnerable group went first; people from all the most vulnerable groups could get them at once. If there were enough doses, Americans of all stripes could be lining up getting shots right now.

But there aren’t enough doses, or enough places to store them, or enough trained personnel ready to administer them. Even though the Trump administration had months to prepare an efficient vaccine rollout system, they failed. It appears they hardly even tried.

This tragic mess will be left to Joe Biden, who takes office Jan. 20. He has promised to reach 100 million shots administered by the end of his first 100 days.

It will take the full force of government to get that done, and Biden should leave no resource unused. His administration should talk to the people producing and administering the vaccine, ask what they need and give it to them.

There is no time to waste. Every day vaccinations lag behind costs lives and money.


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