#Editorial: Implementation Logistics Badly Needed

People stand on line to being tested at the COVID-19 mobile testing facility at Miami Beach Convention Center Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

Events here in the U.S. over the past year suggests it may be very helpful if federal and state governments hasten to include a Department of Logistics in the respective administrations. 

With all the money, technology and expertise the U.S. has, a lack of logistic planning left the nation woefully unprepared when the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably arrived.  

But it has been almost a year since COVID-19 hit our shores, and one would think enough time has elapsed for both federal and state governments to have prepared implementation logistics to test, treat, and introduce preventative measures related to the pandemic.

Within weeks after the pandemic broke, scientists advised the best way to stop the pandemic would be through a developed vaccine to be distributed and administered globally.

The Trump administration embarked on project “Warp Speed” to get pharmaceutical companies and scientists to develop a vaccine by the end of 2020. To their credit, by early December two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, produced vaccines that were approved for public distribution with fanfare by the FDA.

Naturally, with COVID-19 spreading rapidly throughout the country, public anticipation to become vaccinated soared. Unfortunately, the announcements of the readiness of the vaccines revealed an unbelievable lack of managerial logistics in sourcing, distributing and administering the vaccines.

Initially, the former Trump administration announced it had ordered sufficient vaccines to administer to 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. It was, however, later learned the administration had ordered some 50 percent less of the vaccines it had originally intended to from Pfizer. This resulted in insufficient vaccines to meet the initial demand of the population.

To compound the problem, there was no national plan to distribute the vaccines when they got to the respective states. Instead, the former administration shunted that responsibility to each state. An issue to Biden administration is working to remedy now.

In Florida, attempts to distribute the vaccine statewide leave much to be desired. Although Gov. Ron DeSantis identified health workers and seniors over age 65 among priority groups to be vaccinated, there was no accompanying logistical plan on how to distribute and administer the vaccine. This leaves Florida’s counties and cities scrambling to come up with the best strategies to get the vaccine to the public.   

According to the data, seniors are the most vulnerable to contract and die from the virus. Black and Hispanic seniors, particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods, are particularly vulnerable to the virus. The systems currently in place provide serious challenges for seniors, especially since they have to make vaccine appointments usually on the internet.

Most seniors in low-income communities don’t have access to the internet, or if they do, are challenged by the digital divide. It’s therefore not surprising, according to reports, just 10 percent of Florida’s eligible Black residents have been vaccinated to date.

Generally, there are serious problems in getting Floridians vaccinated. Vaccination appointments are hard to come by and there are reports of appointments being canceled due to insufficient vaccines. To be properly vaccinated, each person should receive two doses—with the second one coming 21 to 28 days after the first. But there’s major concern that the second dose may not be available in some circumstances. Essentially, there are just not enough vaccines to meet the current demand.

It is now the responsibility of the Biden administration to ensure sufficient vaccines are ordered to meet national demand.

Fortunately, the new administration was proactive in preparing the implementation of a national vaccination plan. Hopefully, the divisive politics that have plagued the attempts to protect Americans against the spread of COVID-19, will not preclude Republican governors in states like Florida from working with the Biden administration to ensure a relatively seamless implementation of this plan.

Another logistical shortcoming is the distribution of stimulus payments to Americans. Millions of people are yet to receive the $600 payment approved by Congress in December. Disbursements of payments are assigned to the IRS, but the IRS doesn’t have the required information to make deposits into everyone’s bank accounts or mail checks to their addresses. Now, the IRS has announced people who haven’t received a deposit or check must wait until they file their 2020 taxes to get the payment.

Stimulus payments are meant to help people desperate for financial help. How does waiting weeks or months for the IRS to make the payment, subject to filing their taxes, help?

With the possibility of Congress approving another stimulus payment of $1,400, there’s an urgent need for logistically planning, probably using multiple databases, to get these payments more quickly to Americans.

 

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