As COVID-19 numbers rise, vaccine rollout falters


Minita Layal

With COVID-19 numbers on the rise, the US goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020 fell short, with only 11.1 million people vaccinated as of Jan.15. Art by Minita Layal.

Minita Layal, Web-Editor-in-Chief

As of Jan. 16, there have been 390,938 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States, according to the CDC. With cases and deaths on the rise, the need for a COVID-19 vaccine increases everyday, though the vaccine rollout process continues to be slow.

The vaccine distribution process has been met with complications from the beginning. 

“The recurring theme is the lack of a national strategy and the attempt to pass the buck down the line, lower and lower, until the poor people at the receiving end have nobody else that they can send the buck to,” Gianfranco Pezzino, a former public health officer for Shawnee County in Kansas, said. 

According to CNN, the United States’s goal was to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020. This goal has fallen short; the New York Times reports that only 11.1 million Americans have received the first dose of either COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 15. 

“We need to acknowledge that it’s not working,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA said. “We need to hit the reset and adopt a new strategy in trying to get that out to patients.”

The demand for faster vaccine rollout is compounded with the identification of several new strains of COVID-19, with the variant from the UK detected in at least sixteen U.S. states as of Jan. 15, according to the CDC. This new strain, referred to as the B.1.1.7 variant, has been detected in 49 countries as of Jan.11, and is only one of several new variants detected globally. In addition to the variant from the UK, another originating in South Africa was detected in October. Variants have also been detected in Nigeria and Brazil. The COVID-19 vaccines currently available are expected to be able to treat the UK variant as well as the original variant. 

President-elect Joe Biden plans to release all available vaccines to the public after he takes office. Initially, President Trump’s policy was to only release half of available vaccines and hold back the other half for guaranteed second doses. However, Operation Warp Speed has been releasing all available vaccines since the end of December, and there is no large reserve of vaccines. 

According to the Huffington Post, Biden’s goal is to vaccinate 100 million people during his first hundred days in office. 

“The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesperson for the Biden transition team TJ Ducklo said. “He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”