Why less than half of vaccines allocated have been administered

BOSTON — As of the end of Monday, 347,450 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed by Massachusetts to providers (including both 1st and 2nd doses)

128,700 doses were allocated to the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program and distributed by the federal government to CVS and Walgreens for Massachusetts residents.

The total allocated to Massachusetts as of yesterday was 476,150 doses, but as of Monday only, 223,054 doses of administered vaccine were reported.

So why there is such a huge discrepancy? The state says there is a slight delay in when administered vaccines are reported. It says it ships vaccines to providers within 1-2 days of receiving them, so then it comes down to why those providers can’t move fast enough. It turns out the devil is in the details.

“There’s a supply of vaccines,” said Michael Curry, Esq. of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “The demand is there the need is to get that out especially as we see surges happening across the Commonwealth, but there are some procedural process issues.”

Those process issues right now are why the state has administered less than half of the vaccines allocated.

Days after President-elect Biden announced plans to get vaccines out of the federal government’s hands, President Trump reversed course and announced he will do the same thing. According to President Trump’s plan, if other states execute faster, they will get more vaccines sooner.

Even with the small amount that the state has, it still hasn’t been able to administer them all. So can the state handle an even larger amount?

“Here’s the sticking point. You can’t release vaccines without releasing the funding the resources to build up the infrastructure and make sure that we have what we need to deploy to distribute those vaccines,” Curry said. “The tie-up on the federal level to put resources into providers is part of the problem.”

“We’re also grateful to all the volunteers that are working here,” said Gov. Baker. “There are 280 volunteers medical students certified to administer vaccines for first responders and later to others.”

Gov. Baker says the state is working as fast as possible even getting help from volunteers to speed things up but is there more that can be or should’ve been done?

“I don’t think any state was prepared,” said Curry.

Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers says even if we get the infused cash, resources, nurses, volunteers and admin staff all in place, there will still be one other major thing holding us back from herd immunity.

“We have to have a strong media campaign, social media & traditional media to reach people and then package it in a way that we can introduce them to the efficacy and safety of this vaccine,” said Curry. They need to get that information now so that when it’s their turn in line that they can feel some confidence that the vaccine is safe.”

He says number one is education on efficacy, and number two is resources in the communities, but there are a couple of other factors slowing us down. He mentioned a lack of available workforce, and then you add to that the fact that the workforce we do have is being stretched thin while in the middle of a post-holiday surge, while also having to deal with non-COVID issues that never stopped.

“There’s been an ongoing challenge with staffing even pre-pandemic,” said Curry.

Now the state has to find enough healthy staff to administer the vaccines both in and outside of hospitals. We are now seeing gig economy workers and volunteers stepping up to help. Hopefully, that helps to some degree.

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