I’ve finally figured out why everything is so screwed up getting the Covid-19 vaccinations into the arms of the most vulnerable among us to the worst effects of this crazy virus. There was apparently a Trekkie at the bottom of what has turned out to be another false promise— Operation Warp Speed. You may know that warp speed is a term from “Star Wars” and is the essential speed for interstellar travel, which is still beyond our primitive times. Talk about high expectations. No wonder there are so many frustrated people trying to figure out how to get on a schedule for a vaccination— any schedule with an end in sight. Most of us are willing to wait. I know I am. We just want to know we’re going to get the damned shot, whether it’s the first, last or the only one we need
And while we’re on the Star Wars references here, the software that is the driving force of Operation Warp Speed is called Tiberius, which just happens to be the middle name of Captain James T. Kirk, the man at the helm of the USS Enterprise. Science fiction is at the heart of what turned into a logistical nightmare. Since the man behind the plan, Donald Trump, doesn’t seem to believe in science, it should come as no surprise that that this effort has all been mostly fiction from the start.
As one of the codgers well over the qualifying age for the 65-and-above group, I, as well as my much younger wife, are in that first group of folks eligible to get the vaccination. The trouble is there is apparently no vaccine available for many of us. I go online to Guthrie Healthcare to read the following: “All available appointments for the Vaccination Clinic scheduled to begin Friday have been filled. We are eagerly awaiting additional vaccine supply…”
It seems that as soon as the word gets out, even on the website, the appointments are already filled. You call the suggested phone numbers, including the one specifically to schedule a vaccination, and you’re told the same thing and advised to continue to check the website or your local newspaper. From there, it is déjà vu all over again.
Okay. There’s always Geisinger, right? The word there is: “We are experiencing high call volumes. Vaccine appointments are temporarily unavailable. Please check this page… often.”
Neither my wife nor I are panicking over this. We’re just trying to do what people our age are being told to do. Aside from being in our declining years, we are in excellent health for our respective ages, although, as previously noted, my wife, born nine months after yours truly, is much younger.
We’re both computer literate and don’t have a problem going to websites or researching the internet when we have to, but there are a lot of other codgers who experience a sudden rise in blood pressure, even sieges of apoplexy, if they have to figure out how to turn on a computer, let alone use one. They are probably not sure what to do except call the vaccination center every day to ask if there are any vaccination openings yet. They keep getting the same answer. Check again another day. Maybe there will be an opening then. That’s called the luck of the draw, and, meanwhile, you learn the 40-year-old guy down the street who runs a smoke shop (just an example and not a real person) and his wife got theirs.
So I’m thinking this is a hell of a system. People in my age group are right behind healthcare employees. Plus the Phase 1A category which includes others in medical services, including home health and hospice workers, emergency medical providers, dentists/dental hygienists and pharmacists. Now we’re in the group ahead of people 18-64 “with certain high-risk medical conditions.” Some of them might need the protection more than I do so I’d wouldn’t have a problem with some of them going ahead of me.
I have no control over any of that. I was making calls and going to websites, but I couldn’t even get on a list.
So why can’t you sign into, in our case, the 65-and-older group, type in required information to prove it is you and then get on a list? There may be several hundred people in front of you, but you’re on a list. At some point weeks or months down the road, there are 50 people ahead of you, let’s say, and the next shipment comes in with 100 doses and you receive notification you’re in the next group. You could do the same thing on the phone, even if you are on hold for 15 minutes, a half hour or more until they get to you just to get on a list. It seems a lot more professional and efficient than: “Give us a call. You might get lucky.” You might not.
Update: Just made a call to a local pharmacy (nudge, nudge) that is supposed to be getting the vaccine and asked if I could get on a list for vaccinations. They didn’t have a list but said they’d start one. So I got lucky. It might mean waiting a long time until they even get the vaccine, but I trust them as a long-time customer. Now I can return to the business of doing whatever it is I do.
So getting back to the fiction of Operation Warp Speed, I remember when Chief Operating Officer General Gustave Perna claimed he was up for any challenge, that they would overcome all potential barriers to get the stuff out quickly to vaccination centers. Coincidentally, the presidential campaign was in the stretch run then and there was a lot of boasting about at least 20 million people getting their first virus thwarting jabs by the end of the 2020.
This massive $10 billion distribution effort was supposedly uniting pharm labs, public and private couriers and even the U.S. Army into a formidable distribution system that was predicted to bring the pandemic to an end by spring. By the time the new year arrived, there were only an estimated 5 million vaccinated. The good news is that 28 million people have received at least one shot to date, according to an article in USA Today on Tuesday of this week, but achieving herd immunity might not arrive until well after end of another summer. The Trump administration, through Operation Warp Speed, did succeed in getting millions of doses needed out to warehouses and loading docks as predicted. It was lack of coordination, funding and educating the public that led to falling far short of inoculation goals.
“States and localities were expected to take over from there with little support, guidance or money,” the aforementioned article concluded.
Trump put the burden of dealing with the pandemic throughout 2020 on the states while he continued to play down its impact. It allowed him to blame the raging virus and its many deaths on governors, especially Democratic ones, while he spent more time holding rallies and hosting White House events, some of which turned out to be super spreaders.
Pro Publica, a nonpartisan nonprofit newsroom, described Operation Warp Speed as a dysfunctional system and “vaccination chaos.” The development of effective Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year has been amazing in itself and an example of how the private sector and scientific community always seems to be up to the task when the United States is in peril. Think of how quickly we were up and running with manpower and equipment once we committed to joining our allies in World War II. The development and production of the lifesaving potions may have been a miracle but distributing doses to an eagerly waiting public has become a morass.
Some have blamed the public for its unrealistic expectations, which may be true, but who was it who raised hopes by making unrealistic promises? It is a lesson in the dangers of politicizing a national crisis. When it comes to Coovid-19 we just want to know there is a fair and logical system in place, and it’s not about who you know or the luck of the draw. It is the same with another issue hanging over us: getting millions to face the facts and believe in the integrity of democracy again.