The editors of the Wall Street Journal think that over-politicization of inoculation is slowing the process:
Blame convoluted and rigid eligibility rules that have focused too much on “equity”—i.e., politics. Operation Warp Speed apportions doses to states, and then states decide how to allocate them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to states on how to prioritize vaccines focuses on worker occupation, but many states have added to the morass.
New York has been one of the worst, creating a complex formula for ranking health-care employees based on underlying risk factors, age, occupation and hospital department, among other things. Many hospitals had spare vaccines because large numbers of health-care workers declined to be vaccinated. Yet state rules barred offering shots to others.
To some extent that echoes my point that simplicity is a virtue and the more complicated the plan the more difficult it will be to follow. They advocate prioritizing based on age:
The risk of severe illness increases with age, which is why the Administration was right to urge states to administer the vaccine to anyone 65 and older. By one estimate a 70-year-old is about four times more likely to die than a 60-year-old and seven times more likely than a 50-year-old. Age is also a bigger risk factor than underlying health conditions like diabetes. There’s no reason a 25-year-old teacher or grocery worker should get a shot before a 65-year-old.
The development of Covid vaccines in record time is a tribute to private innovation and political will that cut through bureaucracy. The vaccine distribution has been an example of too much political interference. We hope the Biden team is paying attention.
That makes a certain amount of sense but there actually are reasons to inoculate a 25-year-old teacher or grocery worker. Age is the among the most important risk factors but it isn’t the only risk factor. State of health and contacts are risk factors, too.
There are any number of possible inoculation strategies. For example, we could prioritize the zip codes with the highest number of infections, going as far as to move the inoculation sites to the people being inoculated rather than the other way around. Inoculating everyone in a high risk zip code should be simpler, easier, and faster than inoculating the individuals who are notionally at the highest risk in all zip codes.
The lesson I think we are learning is that achieving “herd immunity” through inoculation won’t be as fast as people have been assuming it would be.