We keep hearing “there’s light at the end of the tunnel” with respect to the coronavirus pandemic now that there are approved vaccines being delivered across the country. A subtle sense of optimism surfaces as we anticipate our lives returning to some form of normalcy perhaps by summer or, more realistically, by autumn.
But we cannot breathe that deep sigh of relief just yet as we hear about disruptions in distribution and shortages of vaccines in Ohio and across the country. We hear about confusion that has resulted in doses being thrown away after going bad. We hear about cases of sabotaging some supplies. We hear about boxes of vaccines sitting in warehouses waiting to be shipped. We hear about people in Florida and other states waiting hours in line only to be told no vaccine is left when it was their turn.
Gov. Mike DeWine said on Tuesday that Phase 1B of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan will begin in two weeks. But as of early this week, some primary care health providers in Ohio’s Phase 1A still were waiting for their vaccines. It is discouraging to see the slow rollout in Ohio, with only about 50 percent of the state’s initial COVID-19 vaccine supply administered to date.
That is consistent with U.S. numbers, with only 4.5 million people nationwide having received the vaccine as of early this week out of the 15.5 million vaccine doses distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials blame the holiday weekend and a more time-consuming protocol for the COVID-19 inoculations compared to other vaccines. Still, some major health systems are waiting for more vaccine to be delivered. There is confusion and disorganization while record numbers of people are getting sick and the number of deaths continues to rise.
If healthcare workers cannot quickly get vaccinated, when will it be our turn?How will everyday people be notified and by whom?Do we check all the health websites, ask employers, or call doctors’ offices? There are no clear answers.
Gov. DeWine said the Phase 1B will include adults 65 years and older, those with development disorders as well as teachers and staff of school districts planning to hold in-person classes.
The governor’s rollout plan hinges on when Ohio will get more shipments and how many doses will be included. The disorganization on the federal level leaves those questions in limbo.
Closer to home, Geauga County Health Commissioner Thomas Quade said last week that the county began holding clinics with its 300 doses of vaccine by going on the road to nursing homes, fire departments where EMS employees work and other such locations. County residents who want to get on the Geauga Public Health contact list can visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/GPHCOVID19Vaccine and fill out the form. Mr. Quade is working to secure an online app for residents to download and schedule their vaccine at one of several community clinics when they become eligible and when Geauga gets more doses.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health website states that the agency is now serving the Phase 1A group. Because of the large number of people in the county who qualify, agency officials cannot predict how long it will take to complete Phase 1A.
All the confusion and delays over the vaccine add to citizens’ worries and lack of confidence in the system. Federal, state and local health officials must nail down plans to distribute and administer the vaccines. They must clarify when people will get their turn and how to sign up. They must stop making excuses and get the job done. Lives are at stake.