News & Politics

How Come We Can't Track Vaccines Like We Track Packages?

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

UPS and the Postal Service can track packages from when it was handed to them for shipment to when it reaches the customer. So why can’t we do the same thing with vaccines?

It’s a huge national problem and is dramatically slowing the distribution of the vaccine. For all the talk about Trump administration “incompetence” in handling the pandemic, it turns out that Joe Biden’s White House is even worse when it comes to organizing the distribution of the vaccine.

I wrote about California’s inability to track 20 million doses of the vaccine. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jim Geraghty has a half dozen other examples from state and local governments as well as public health agencies.

In a world where Amazon, UPS, and the Postal Service can tell you precisely where your package is, and when all boxes of vaccines are “equipped with a GPS beacon, a temperature monitor and a barcode that’s scanned upon receipt,” it is still baffling that the government — whether it’s Operation Warp Speed, the CDC, the HHS, the White House, the Pentagon, or state and local governments — can’t get a clear sense of where the vaccines are in the distribution chain, how many will arrive at a certain time, how many will be available to be distributed, and how many people to schedule for an appointment.

And yet, more than eight weeks into the vaccination process, certain hospitals and medical centers say they aren’t getting what local governments and counties promised, localities say they aren’t getting what the state promised, and states say they aren’t getting what the federal government promised. Why is this process so hard? Where in the supply chain are the numbers getting lost?

The process to vaccinate one person is mired in quicksand. I understand the need for some organization and the necessity of receiving a second shot slows the process down.

But the question is, who’s in charge?

In South Carolina, a clinic received 400 doses and has administered only one. Why?

She said VAMS, the federal scheduling program, has crippled her community’s ability to get vaccinated.

“There are a lot of people who do not know how to read, how to write,” she said. “There are people who have other languages, a lot of the people, especially 70 or above, there are people who have no computers, who have never worked on a computer in their life. They have no idea what to do.”

“From coast to coast, it is not difficult to find planned vaccination events getting canceled or dramatically scaled back because of limited supplies or supplies not appearing when and where they’re supposed to arrive,” Geraghty writes.

Memphis:

More than 80,000 people in Shelby County have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, thousands are on deck to get their second dose and many don’t know when that will be. WMC heard from several people who said they’re set to receive their second dose this week, but there aren’t any appointments left. Only one day and one location is set aside this week for second doses, but appointments are filled, and that’s leaving thousands of people with worries.

Both Moderna and Pfizer swear they’ve done their part. They have manufactured the vaccine and shipped them where they were told to. Operation Warp Speed says only two shipments were misdirected. We are now vaccinating more than a million people a day — maybe. Where are those numbers coming from? The CDC says that the federal government has delivered 62.9 million doses to states, territories, and federal agencies. But as of yesterday, only 32.9 million people have received at least one dose. That’s 30 million doses that are sitting somewhere waiting to be used.

But don’t worry. Joe Biden is in charge now and I’m sure he knows where every single one of those 30 million doses of vaccine are.

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