On the next page, Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr spells out the process for the initial stages of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
It’s a timely dispatch at a moment when communities across the country are perplexed by the slow pace of inoculations. Compared to the sprint of developing the vaccine, distributing it seems downright glacial.
Mesa County can only move as quickly as the federal government moves stockpiles of the vaccines to the states. So far, of the roughly 6,000 first-time doses it’s received, Mesa County Public Health has administered nearly 4,000 shots; with more than half coming in the last week.
We have complete confidence in MCPH being able to scale up vaccinations as supplies become readily available. Now that any doubts have been extinguished about a new presidential administration, expect to see a major shift in policy regarding vaccine supplies.
Despite President Trump’s assurances of a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” the vaccine remains a point of contention between the incoming and outgoing administrations.
President-elect Joe Biden aims to release nearly every available dose of the coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a departure from the Trump administration’s strategy of holding back half of U.S. vaccine production to ensure second doses are available.
Biden — who has vowed to administer 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office — will announce more details next week on his plan, but transition officials have indicated that Biden is prepared to use the Defense Production Act, if necessary, to ensure manufacturers can keep up with the demand.
It’s fair to question whether flooding communities with the vaccine is smart if they aren’t provided with the resources to create the infrastructure and recruit the personnel to kick vaccinations into high gear. Hopefully Biden’s plan addresses this potential hiccup.
But Kuhr’s update indicates Mesa County is ready get shots into as many arms as possible. By the end of this month, MCPH will turn the Grand Junction Convention Center into a mass vaccination “Point of Dispensing” capable of administering 1,600 shots a day.
In light of some confusion at the state level, that’s reassuring. Last week, Gov. Jared Polis defended his administration’s rollout of the vaccine amid complaints that some Coloradans have been vaccinated ahead of health-care workers and other top priority groups.
What remains to be seen, beyond the initial focus on health-care workers, is whether the larger community will resist being vaccinated at rates that will hinder herd immunity. While the science is clear, we’ve certainly seen over the past few years that when facts are fungible, a certain percentage of the population won’t act responsibly.
Clearly, the distribution effort could benefit from better planning from the federal level on down. Whatever happens at the federal level, we are comforted that Mesa County stands ready to administer the vaccine as quickly as it receives it.