The recently inaugurated Biden administration has announced plans to vaccinate at least 100 million people in his first 100 days in office. The administration has even suggested that, if all goes according to plan, they will be able to vaccinate 150 million people. But some are less optimistic.
“I think everybody hopes that the changing of the guard is going to accelerate the process, but ultimately I think we’re going to have to wait and see… I think that there’s been a bad information transfer between the previous administration and the new administration, and I don’t know how quickly a new administration will be able to pick up those pieces and start running,” Dr. Laura Frost, a biological sciences professor, said.
The Trump administration fell short of their plan to vaccinate 20 million people before the end of 2020, vaccinating less than 3 million people.
“The rollout has been a dismal failure thus far… let me be clear, things will get worse before they get better,” President Biden said in a press briefing.
“There have been significant hiccups,” Dr. Frost said. “We were promised adequate supplies, and they were not given. We have a lot to do to get out of this, and communication has been poor. The rollout of the vaccine has not been as smooth as we were promised. We need to vaccinate more people if we want to get out of this.”
“I think Biden will do a better job than Trump for COVID things; however vaccination distribution is on a state by state basis, and I am unsure how he will affect distribution,” Angela Le, a Pre-Med student at the University of Pittsburgh, said.
The vaccine rollout locally has also been criticized, most notably UPMC’s handling of vaccinating medical students at the University of Pittsburgh. UPMC was initially vaccinating employees who had zero patient contact while not vaccinating medical students working in clinics full time. News of this broke through a Reddit post.
“With COVID everywhere, we’re left as both potential victims and potential spreaders in the hospital system that obviously values their employees over their patients,” the Reddit post said.
Following the post going viral and being picked up by area news organizations, UPMC reversed their decision and announced that they would be vaccinating medical students.
“I think initially Pitt wasn’t doing its best effort to vaccinate the students, but, with the recent news, I think they are trying their best,” Le said.
Medical students not being vaccinated is not the only controversy coming from UPMC. Multiple people who spoke to The Globe under the pretense of anonymity (to ensure their job security and status with the university) have described what they view as flaws in the current planning.
“I work in a lab in UPMC and all of the lab techs have received the first dose… I have not,” one student, who will be identified as Student #1, said. “Lab technicians aren’t really a healthcare worker besides the fact that my lab is located in a hospital. It’s weird because there are essential workers who are further away in line from the vaccine, and there people who aren’t actually heavily exposed are getting it first.”
“I have friends in Pharmacy school who are literally administering the vaccine and are not being given it,” Student #2 said.
“The Principal Investigator at my lab was telling me how she got vaccinated… all she does is write grants and give Zoom presentations… but she got vaccinated. She told me the process was really easy for her… she just had to show her UPMC card,” Student #3 said.
Despite all this, some remain optimistic that Pitt will be able to work things out.
“I think these were initial issues but through Pitt’s new program they should be worked out,” Student #3 said.
Among other concerns raised regarding vaccine rollout is the growing movement of people who distrust the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“This is the first time that an MRNA vaccine has been approved for emergency use. We don’t know the long term effects… but none of these vaccines would get approved if there wasn’t significant data backing up the fact that they are safe,” Dr. Frost said.
“I think that a lot of people don’t really understand how vaccination works,” Le said.
“In my mind, I would be first in line for the vaccine, and I believe that it is effective and safe. The best and fastest way to get back to a normal world is to just get the vaccine,” Dr. Frost said.