PD Editorial: Americans need vaccinations, not more promises

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

Americans have heard a lot of promises about the coronavirus over the past year.

There were the false (“we have it totally under control”) and the fantastical (“one day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear”), the hopeful (“a vaccine before the end of the year — or maybe even sooner”) and the overly optimistic (“A million will be vaccinated. In 10 days”).

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the final promise earlier this month, adding: “Hold me accountable.”

Two effective vaccines were approved in December, a triumph of medical research and a source of hope for millions of weary people eager to return to work or school and resume their normal routines, including face-to-face interaction with friends and loved ones, without fearing for their lives.

But federal, state and local officials have proven incapable of distributing and delivering doses in a timely fashion.

More than 400,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States over the past year, and every day of delay means more lives lost.

In California, the state Department of Health Services reports that, as of Wednesday, it had shipped 3.9 million doses, and 1.7 million had been administered.

That’s just 43%. The national average is 49% -- but that isn’t much better.

Here in Sonoma County, where officials complain they haven’t been able to obtain vaccines on a timely basis, hospitals and health contractors immunized 23,787 people through Wednesday, including 5,033 people who had completed the two-dose vaccination process.

That’s a sliver of the county’s 493,000 residents.

From Washington to Sacramento to Santa Rosa, public officials are vowing to do better. That’s nice, but promises, no matter how earnest, don’t get vaccines distributed or injected. The time has come to deliver, and state, local and federal officials must be accountable.

Sonoma County says it will add two more vaccination sites this week, bringing the total to seven, with the capacity to administer 2,000 doses a day – more than double last week’s average. Local hospitals are adding capacity too as they prepare to start vaccinating people 65 and older.

Will the vaccines be available? At a news conference Thursday, county health officials complained about the slow trickle of vaccines from the state.

Can the state deliver? Maybe you’ll have better luck than we did deciphering this word salad from a member of the state’s vaccine advisory committee:

“This vaccine distribution is being jerry-rigged on a famously fragmented health system and underfunded public health infrastructure, which produces inconsistencies county by county and provider by provider but also problems with getting timely data to see how California as a whole is doing,” Anthony Wright, the executive director of Health Access California, told the Los Angeles Times. “This data is critical to know not just how efficient but equitable and effective California’s efforts have been, and where we need to close gaps.”

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, rolled out a $20 billion plan that would create mass vaccination centers and mobile clinics for hard-to-reach rural areas while expanding the use of pharmacies.

Biden’s goal is to administer 100 million vaccinations in 100 days, but he needs congressional approval for much of his plan. Then there’s the matter of supplying frontline providers with enough vaccine to meet public demand.

That’s a logistics problem, and Walmart, Amazon and some other large companies are offering their resources to open the bottleneck. Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up manufacturing, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, so why not take welcome volunteers with demonstrated expertise in delivery?

Too many lives already have been lost, and too much time is being wasted in this race to get life-saving shots into people’s arms.

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Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

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