It was reported a few days ago that about 14% of us have received a COVID vaccination and just over 7% of the U.S. population have received two COVID vaccine shots. Clearly, there is a long way to go.
Just imagine if in this nation we right now had around 88,000 locations and 300,000 or more people trained to deliver medication to individuals. How much better might it be if these well trained and experienced people in these places were already delivering nearly 200 million doses of regular influenza vaccine to patients every year.
If this kind of system existed in the nation, wouldn’t you want to see it better utilized for the COVID vaccine?
Well, it does exist. We call the places pharmacies and the people pharmacists. Yes, in addition to the flu vaccines they administer, they fill almost 4.5 billion prescriptions every year. And, doing this requires a network of suppliers and distributors that call on pharmacies once, sometimes twice, a day to supply them with medicines of all kinds.
As stories are told about trying to get appointments, of long lines, of waiting lists too long to even accept more people, I keep wondering: why are governments building parallel systems to administer the COVID vaccine?
One of the strangest approaches I heard about is occurring in the nation’s Capital. The District of Columbia officials actually distribute the vaccine according to zip codes of their choosing. Friday is an “open” day for all zip codes so citizens can log in and play a lottery-like challenge to get a vaccination.
Imagine if this odd plan applied to asthma medication or heart medications…..sorry, we only fill prescriptions for this medication if you live in certain zip codes…strange, isn’t it!
Then, there are the positive – sort of – stories of how so many people don’t show up for a government run scheduled appointment that pharmacists have been known to come out into their store and ask people if they want a vaccination because the unused vaccine for the day would have to be destroyed.
Here, where I live in Maryland, I am getting invited with some frequency to travel for a couple of hours to an amusement park where I could wait in a long line for my vaccination.
Perhaps the policy makers had it right when they initially spoke of using retail pharmacies to provide vaccinations. Most people live near a pharmacy. The pharmacy receives medical products everyday through a proven system involving thousands of trucks and many thousands of trained people.
Do we really need to use stadiums, amusement parks and the nation’s military for distribution?
With many millions more doses of the vaccine delivered than there have been shots administered, we really should take a new look at how best to get the other 93% of the population their second shot, not to mention getting people their first shot. I think having the government in the middle of the distribution business is not helping. We have an incredible structure in place to receive medications from manufacturers and deliver those medications to the nation’s local pharmacies. Let’s use the system built over decades and allow the government focus on the distribution system they own and operate so well: the Postal Service.
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.