Might our worst failing in the coronavirus pandemic yet be ahead of us? Here we are, with two approved COVID-19 vaccinations — developed in record time and now in full production by their manufacturers — and yet we have insufficient means of delivery. Imagine how World War II might have turned out had we built all those planes, tanks and bombs and had no means of getting them around the world.
Our problem now isn’t even that big. Around the world? We just have to go around the block — or have people come to the vaccine! — to solve this issue, yet it’s as though we’ve put little thought or investment into a solution.
This failing is so egregious — at a time when COVID-positive cases and hospitalizations are setting daily records — Gov. Roy Cooper has activated the National Guard to help administer vaccines.
So here we sit, a nation so brimming with potential yet utterly incapable of the urgency needed to execute.
Finally, a Plan
The first shots — Phase 1A — have logically gone to health care professionals at risk of exposure to COVID-19, and employees and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes everyone over the age of 75 and front-line “essential workers.”
It took longer for us to get there than some surrounding counties, but on Tuesday we finally began vaccinating individuals over the age of 75. Indeed, while other counties had begun vaccinating their seniors, it wasn’t until last Thursday when a local plan was rolled out.
Shots for people being vaccinated through FirstHealth or Pinehurst Medical Clinic are going to be administered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at The Fair Barn in Pinehurst.
Senior citizens who do not have health insurance or who have other primary care providers will receive the vaccine at no cost through the health department. Clinics for residents being vaccinated through the Health Department will be held four days a week at the agency’s headquarters in Carthage.
The Health Department has launched a website and phone hotline to pre-register residents.
“We know that COVID-19 represents a real risk to all residents, but especially those who are older,” Mickey Foster, CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, said in a statement. “And with cases continuing to rise, accelerating our efforts to deliver vaccines is essential.”
Running a clinic two days a week at a large venue like the Fair Barn doesn’t sound much like “accelerating.” But it’s better than where we were last week at this time.
Don’t Fail to Finish
We know the hospital — and the Health Department — have been working hard. We know they’re trying to focus on testing, tracing, treatment, public education, paperwork. It’s a lot, and the people doing the work are pushing hard.
But we’re behind. Moore County has a lot of seniors — more than 20,000 — and many of them have put their lives on hold the past year and are eager to get vaccinated.
Given what they — and all of us — have endured this past year, nothing deserves greater urgency — at whatever cost. We must have aggressive vaccination plans that can deliver shots just as fast as we get doses in.
The Health Department has said many times it is understaffed, yet it has made no public effort or request for more help. Surely the commissioners, sitting on tens of millions of dollars in reserve accounts, wouldn’t want to hold back now, if it means hiring staff to distribute vaccines or answer phones, schedule appointments and handle paperwork.
It’s great that the governor has activated the National Guard to help with vaccination, but that alone isn’t an answer.
We’ve come too far in such a short time to slow down now. The Health Department didn’t start strong in this pandemic, but it can finish well if it just, well, finishes.