WHEN HE takes office, President-elect Joe Biden will inherit a ragged and stumbling vaccine rollout. Mr. Biden understands the gravity of this crisis and has a solid proposal to speed up vaccination and bolster the creaky U.S. public health system. But hanging over it all is the question of whether Mr. Biden’s package can be executed fast enough to brake the out-of-control pandemic.
President Trump’s calamitous handling of the covid-19 response presents Mr. Biden with awful headaches. The virus is running rampant, and variants that are more contagious are certain to accelerate that. The Trump administration wisely purchased hundreds of millions of vaccine doses but then turned over the task of administering them to the states and localities, which are overstretched and underfunded. So far, 31 million doses have been distributed, but only 12 million shots given. The daily vaccination rate is climbing but needs to be much greater for Mr. Biden to meet his goal of 100 million inoculations in his first 100 days.
Mr. Biden’s proposed $20 billion vaccination program includes creation of community vaccination centers, possibly run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with help from the National Guard, and mobile vaccination clinics for hard-to-reach areas. He has proposed to fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers to assist with vaccination and contact tracing, and later on work in local public health jobs. All this is logical, but how quickly can it be done? If Congress takes a month to act and more time is required to stand up new vaccination centers, the delays will be costly. The plan to boost staffing has merit, but where will these people come from? How long will it take to get the funds, hire workers and train them?
The pandemic is claiming about 4,000 American lives every day. Mr. Biden’s good ideas must be executed with the urgency of a fire brigade responding to a house in flames.
Mr. Biden also correctly proposes to scale up diagnostic testing, one of the notable disasters of the Trump presidency, as well as address vulnerable groups and populations, and remedy the persistent shortages of personal protective equipment. He would fund a national disease surveillance capacity that would allow monitoring of the evolving virus by whole genome sequencing, as is done in Britain. The pandemic has made it starkly clear that investing in virus early warning is every bit as important as ballistic missile early warning.
Another worry is vaccine supply. As The Post’s Carolyn Y. Johnson reports, there are risks in the coming months that not every manufacturing facility can be running perfectly at full speed 24 hours a day. The administration must be rigorous in monitoring the factories and helping industry avoid disruption and acquire raw materials.
As vaccination eligibility widens, tens of millions more people will be ready and eager to get the vaccine. Mr. Biden’s program recognizes the myriad difficulties. It will take a full-court press from Congress and a nascent administration to solve them.
Robert M. Wachter and Ashish K. Jha: It’s time to consider delaying the second dose of coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus: What you need to know
End of the public health emergency: The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, just days after WHO said it would no longer classify the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency. Here’s what the end of the covid public health emergency means for you.
Tracking covid cases, deaths: Covid-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States last year with covid deaths dropping 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world.
The latest on coronavirus boosters: The FDA cleared the way for people who are at least 65 or immune-compromised to receive a second updated booster shot for the coronavirus. Here’s who should get the second covid booster and when.
New covid variant: A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India. Here’s what you need to know about Arcturus.
Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?
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