In New York City, hospitals only administered about 46% of their doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Several states further away in Florida, only 260,000 residents received their first dose of the vaccine on Sunday, even though there was enough for about 1 million people to receive their first vaccine.
The slow rollout, amid the surge in coronavirus cases, is driving state officials across the country mad as hell. Some are even threaten hospitals to administer their doses as soon as possible or risk losing them entirely, as well as heavy fines.
But while the need for faster vaccinations is clear, experts said scathing criticism was little more than politicians blaming themselves on overtaxed health systems.
“Across the country there have been problems with the delivery of vaccines,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing Monday. “I want needles in my arms, and I want this to be done as quickly as possible. If there are hospitals that are more successful at doing this, they should do it.
Since December, more than 15.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been distributed nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only about 4.6 million people received their first vaccine on Monday afternoon, despite the federal government’s target of having 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020.
While many factors are contributing to the delay – including the holiday season and the need for more federal funding to support the deployment – DeSantis and Cuomo on Monday put much of the blame directly on hospitals. Lawmakers in Ohio and Texas have also urged hospitals to increase their vaccination rates.
“I don’t want to see a vaccine go unused and not be used when you could shoot yourself with a bullet in your arm,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday. “If you don’t use it, we’ll make sure the additional allowances are reduced.”
As per CDC guidelines, most states currently only vaccinate health workers, nursing home residents, and staff – before they begin administering doses to other essential workers and Americans over 75. But at this rate, the general population won’t even begin to have access to the vaccine until spring, a troubling schedule given that the deadly virus has already killed more than 350,000 Americans and infected an estimated 20 million more.
“We are currently at a pace to deliver vaccines to Los Angeles over five years, instead of over six months,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday. on CBS ‘ Face the nation.
To make matters worse, while both vaccines can last up to six months frozen, doses of Pfizer are only viable five days after being thawed. Moderna vaccine can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. Both vaccines require two injections.
President Donald Trump blamed the slow vaccine deployment on states after the “successful and very large-scale distribution of vaccines” of its administration. Surgeon General Jerome Adams insisted on Sunday that “this was always going to be the most difficult vaccine deployment in history.”
Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told the Daily Beast on Monday that struggling hospitals should not bear the brunt of the blame.
“It is the height of hypocrisy to denounce hospitals that are underperforming in their deployment of vaccines. The real blame should be placed on the federal and state governments for a disastrous, poorly planned and anemic funded vaccine rollout campaign, ”Gostin said. “Hospitals were promptly informed of when and how many vaccines they would receive, supplies arrived during the holidays when they were understaffed. Hospital staff received no training and received few valuable resources.
“The White House and the governors are passing the buck and shirking political accountability. The whole campaign does not have a clear plan backed by resources, ”he added.
On Monday, Cuomo revealed that in the past three weeks, only 300,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered in New York City – less than half of the total number of doses allocated to the state. Meanwhile, New York has become the fourth state to reach one million confirmed cases of COVID-19.
To encourage faster delivery, the governor said if supplies are not used within a week of delivery, health care systems can face fines of up to $ 100,000 and be disqualified for receiving other batches of vaccine.
During an astonishing portion of Cuomo’s daily press conference, the Democrat called out state hospitals that distributed the highest and lowest percentage of COVID-19 vaccines they have already received.
“I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals. This is a management issue for their hospitals, ”Cuomo said after insisting that local leaders need to do more to get the vaccine distributed quickly.
Some of these worst performing hospitals include Samaritan Hospital, which currently delivered about 15 percent of its available doses, and AO Fox Hospital-Tri-Town Campus, which only gave about 18 percent. Nassau University Medical Center, Cuomo added, distributed only 19% of its vaccines and Nuvance Health only used 24%.
The four hospitals did not immediately respond to the Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Shooting directly at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo announced that the city’s health care system had only administered 31 percent of its vaccine doses, despite the increased number of cases.
De Blasio said on Monday that the city plans to administer at least 400,000 vaccines per week to 250 access points. So far, the city has only administered around 110,000 doses since it started vaccinating on December 15.
A New York nurse, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional reprisal, believes that the lack of communication between hospitals and city officials is also a factor in the delay in vaccination. She said there was confusion in the city over who can get the vaccine and when – turning what should be an organized system “into a kind of free for all”.
“I think the city has made sure that frontline healthcare workers receive the vaccine or are about to receive it,” the nurse said. “But after the ‘top priority list’ it kind of turns into a larger group that’s hard to organize. So far, I have not seen any general plan to ensure that vaccination centers can administer doses safely and effectively. “
As Cuomo demanded that hospitals hurry with vaccinations, the governor also threatened implications for systems that do not follow CDC inoculation guidelines. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who specializes in infectious diseases, said the end goal should be to get “as many people as possible, even if it’s slightly off duty” vaccinated. .
“Hospitals try to respect the prioritization scheme put in place by the CDC. It therefore seems counterproductive to penalize hospitals for joining the program – and possibly allocating more vaccine doses than necessary – or for going outside state guidelines to ensure that all vaccines are used ”, Adalja told The Daily Beast.
Adalja also insisted that there are “cascading negative effects of penalizing hospitals whose main objective is to ensure that everyone receives a vaccine.”
“At the end of the day, punishing hospitals that face a supply chain that may not be perfectly sized just means that it will take the general population longer to get vaccinated,” he said. -he adds.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was simply trying to encourage “healthy competition” between hospitals to get the vaccine quickly.
“Hospitals that don’t do a good job of distributing the vaccine” will see the supplies redistributed to providers who deliver the doses effectively, he said.
The Republican governor’s plea for more vaccinations is remarkable, given that he has continuously downplayed the severity of the pandemic by refusing to implement a mask warrant or strict stay-at-home orders. DeSantis has also pushed his state to vaccinate seniors before essential workers.
The state is particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus with the combination of a huge population of older people – nearly 400,000 of whom live in nursing homes and other assisted living centers – and its current COVID-19 disaster. With a current positivity rate of 8.3%, the state has already lost nearly 22,000 people and more than 1.3 million others have been infected.
According to the CDC, 1.1 million doses have been distributed in Florida so far, enough to immunize about 13% of the priority population of home workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities. So far, according to the state’s health department, only around 260,665 residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, which means about 0.8% of the Sunshine State population has been vaccinated.
Florida Hospital Association CEO Mary Mayhew told News4Jax that hospitals across the state are working tirelessly to speed up the vaccination process.
“Hospitals are absolutely committed to administering vaccines effectively,” Mayhew said, noting that “the vast majority of the vaccine has just arrived in the last week and a half before two public holidays.”
The state’s health department declined to comment on hospitals that have been slow to roll out the vaccine, telling the Daily Beast the plan is “fluid” and will prioritize the elderly. DeSantis also announced on Monday four new actions to increase the vaccination process, including opening additional inoculation sites that will be open seven days a week. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
“There is no time to waste. We don’t think it is time to rest,” DeSantis said.
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