US state health officials have said that the federal government “overpromised and underdelivered” regarding coronavirus vaccines.
According to health officials, the federal government left the states undermanned and with not enough budget to administer coronavirus vaccines to their residents in a timely manner.
Overpromised and underdelivered
In a briefing sponsored by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said: “We overpromised and underdelivered as a nation.”
“We only got a third of what we thought we were going to get based on the initial modeling,” Dr. Stack pointed out.
Last year, Operation Warp Speed, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other top officials promised to deliver 40 million vaccines by the end of December and that around 20 million doses will have been administered by that time.
However, the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that it took until the first week of January to distribute 20 million doses and vaccinate around 6 million people.
On the other hand, Stack recognized that the development of multiple vaccines in less than a year was a great achievement.
He said: “Had we just projected realistic quantities, the public wouldn’t have seen this as a shortcoming — we would have recognized it for the incredible accomplishment it was to have even this much vaccine this fast.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of health at the Pennsylvania Department of Health and and president of ASTHO, explained: “I think it’s important not to set unrealistic expectations that then disappoint the public. It could make them become disillusioned with this program.”
“We end up knowing a week or two in advance what the what the possibility is of how much vaccine we’re getting. But then the actual amount that is going to be transported often ends up being somewhat different depending upon the variables that Operation Warp Speed has to deal with in terms of manufacturing and how much they get,” she continued.
Need for more funding and staff
ASTHO members emphasized the need for additional funds and staff during the briefing. Dr. Levine mentioned that the states, cities and territories were only given $340 million to accomplish the targets set by the federal government until the end of the year.
“That is clearly insufficient to accomplishing what we’re trying to accomplish,” Levine said.
Dr. Stack added: “One of the frustrations we’ve had, I think those of us who are state officials, is that there was no funding, dedicated funding, of any substance or size provided for this project and we’ve been saying that for many months before we got to this point.”
He pointed out that while there were large funding for all other stages of the vaccine process, there was not for vaccine administration. Dr. Stack also mentioned the strain on health care systems.
“There’s not a lot of idle health care workers sitting by to draw upon, so I think that’s another challenge all of us face as we try to scale up such an enormous vaccination program,” he argued.