Carla K. Johnson and Nicky Forster have some rather counter-intuitive reporting this morning for the Associated Press, looking at figures which suggest that some of the states that tried to push vaccinations the fastest have actually ended up with a slower vaccine roll-out.
How is that possible? The explanation, as experts see it, is that the rapid expansion of eligibility in states such as South Carolina and Florida caused a surge in demand too big to handle, and led to serious disarray. Vaccine supplies proved insufficient or unpredictable, websites crashed and phone lines became jammed, spreading confusion, frustration and resignation among many people. They’ve now vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut.
“The infrastructure just wasn’t ready. It kind of backfired,” said Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious disease physician and health data specialist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She added: “In the rush to satisfy everyone, governors satisfied few and frustrated many.”
The findings could contain an important go-slow lesson for the nation’s governors, many of whom have announced dramatic expansions in their rollouts over the past few days after being challenged by President Joe Biden to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1.“
If you’re more targeted and more focused, you can do a better job,” said Sema Sgaier, executive director of Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit health-data organization that conducted the analysis in collaboration with the Associated Press. “You can open it up if you have set up the infrastructure to vaccinate all those people fast.”
“It got a little chaotic,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We created far more demand than there was supply. That stressed the system and that may have left the system less efficient.”
Plescia said the analysis suggests that “a more methodical, measured, judicious, priority-based approach despite people’s perception actually can be as efficient, or more efficient, than opening things up and making it available to more people.”
In retrospect, health workers and nursing home residents were the easy groups to vaccinate. Doses could be delivered to them where they lived and worked.
“We knew where they were and we knew who they were,” Wurtz said. As soon as states went beyond those populations, it got harder to find the right people.