The Globe’s Point: The Vaccine Rollout Has Been A Failure And It’s Affecting All Of Us

The coronavirus vaccine. It is the commodity, at least in Pennsylvania, that nobody seems to be able to get their hands on—or rather, get two shots in their arms within the recommended span of time. 

There’s no beating around the bush with this one. The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania has been a categorical failure at the local, state and federal levels. Pennsylvania ranks 35th out of all U.S. states and territories, according to the latest data from the New York Times. Earlier in the month, Pennsylvania was ranked among the worst states in distributing vaccines effectively. 

The rankings aren’t without reason. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine here has been likened to the wild west by several. Distribution is still limited to healthcare workers and older seniors under Phase 1A, and even then, it has been a struggle for many to sign up for clinics.

Seniors have been expected to sign up for vaccine clinics through complicated online portals, when a good number of them do not even own a smartphone or computer. In Allegheny County, websites for vaccine clinics have crashed when people went to sign up, and scammers paired with high demand infamously shut down a vaccine signup phone line in early February. 

When confronted with the dysfunctionality, the inaccessibility, and the lack of transparency, local and state leaders have relied on the same excuse: it’s beyond our control. 

It’s true that the state governments are receiving their supply from the federal government. However, other states have managed the supply that they have been given much better than Pennsylvania. In fact, we have observed that rural communities in Alaska and West Virginia have managed to distribute the vaccine much more effectively than urban areas. Even with how many rural communities and elderly people live in Pennsylvania, we have not been able to replicate similar success. Just last week, it was revealed that some providers had accidentally issued what were meant to be second doses as first doses, which has sent the vaccine rollout plan entirely off the rails. Reform measures are being implemented by the state and local government, but there is really no guarantee that these measures will be any more effective than the previous ones. 

The failures observed in this state and others indicate that the country did not have a clear, well-thought-out plan in place ahead of the approval of the Pfizer vaccine. Unlike the coronavirus pandemic, talk of a vaccine did not hit us so suddenly. Months went into researching and developing a vaccine, and, in that time, government leaders should have been planning extensively for the eventuality that a vaccine would be approved and, when it was, how exactly they would manage its supply and distribution. While state leaders in Pennsylvania had talked about a phased approach, it is clear they did not consider hurdles for seniors or working with a limited supply. 

You may ask, Pioneers, why are we even talking about this? It’s because the lack of availability of a vaccine is affecting everyone here: our parents, grandparents, and us. As young students, we are probably the last group that is going to be in line for this vaccine. And at this rate, Pioneers, we’re fairly certain we’re not going to receive the vaccine for a long, long time.