For months since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Americans waited anxiously for a vaccine that would rein in the deadly spread of the disease.
We were told that the first vaccines would be available by Election Day and, indeed, the first shots were administered only a few weeks after we went to the polls.
Then, we were assured that 100 million vaccinations — 30 percent of America’s population — would be given by the end of 2020 — certainly an ambitious, but reassuring promise. In fact, though, only a little more than 2 million shots were given.
Incoming-President Joe Biden said those 100 million inoculations would be given in his first 100 days in office.
Still, however, the effort to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19 has been going slowly. Why is that?
Is the problem an inability to manufacture the vaccines fast enough? Is it a delivery problem from the federal government to the states? For the states to the local entities? Is it a failure of local officials to get people inoculated? It isn’t that the answer to that question is so hard to get. In fact, we get answers — too many answers, and a lot of them involve pointing fingers and avoiding responsibility.
Here in the Brazos Valley, we know that when the vaccines are available, they go into arms quickly and efficiently. That was proved last week when the new county vaccine hub opened at the Brazos Center. Brazos County received 5,000 does of the vaccine on Monday and, by the end of Thursday, 4,987 doses had been given, mostly to people who had registered at the CHI St. Joseph website.
Unfortunately, Brazos County will get only 3,000 vaccine doses this week. That isn’t acceptable.
The Eagle has received several letters praising the efforts at the Brazos Center, saying everything went smoothly. We thank county vaccine czar Jim Stewart and all the volunteers who worked so hard to make the process work so well.
But almost 5,000 inoculations still leaves an awful lot of people still unvaccinated. Tens of thousands more have signed up to get the shots.
Since Brazos County — and others in the Brazos Valley — has proven it can efficiently and quickly administer the doses it receives, the problem obviously is further up the vaccine chain — and that is harder to fix.
The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine now being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration could be what everyone is calling a “game changer.” Perhaps not quite as effective as the already-approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs one dose rather than two and needs to be stored at normal freezer temperature, which will make it particularly useful in rural areas and other parts of the world that lack the ability to keep vaccines at subzero temperatures. And, the Johnson & Johnson is effective at reducing the effects of the virus to something like the common cold and preventing the need to hospitalize recipients who do get COVID-19.
One of his first actions Joe Biden took after being elected president was to name a COVID-19 task force. He named Jeff Zients as his White House COVID-19 coordinator, and he embraced Dr. Anthony Fauci as a top adviser on the pandemic. That is well and good, but unless they solve the procurement-distribution process, COVID-19 will continue to kill thousands of Americans every day.
Until America reaches the point of herd immunity, we all must continue to follow sensible precautions to keep ourselves and those around us safe. Please, please wear a mask covering your mouth and news when out in public. It is not an assault on your personal freedom. It is the sane, reasonable thing to do and if you won’t abide by that simple guideline, then please stay home.
Practice social distancing when out and about. Listen to what the health and political exports say.
Today, watch Super Bowl LV from home. Avoid large parties, but if you absolutely must go, wear a mask and, instead of cheering, use a noisemaker or clap your hands at the great plays.
America won’t solve its COVID-19 pandemic problem until each of us commits to doing what it takes to keep all of us safe and well. The health community, the governmental entities and each and every American working together will put the pandemic behind us.