Expressing frustration with “fumbles and stumbles” around COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the nation, Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett said Tuesday on Boston Public Radio that the lack of federal guidance and support on distribution "has created massive problems for all of us in every state.”
Prior to vaccine approval, the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed had set a goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the new year. Instead, only about 3 million Americans, or 15% of the original goal, have received their initial vaccine dosage.
Gergen Barnett, the vice chair of primary care innovation and transformation in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center and B.U. Medical School, said many hospitals are struggling to organize vaccinations while also juggling testing and treatment for COVID-19.
"Why are we coming back to the same, raggedy, exhausted teams in hospitals and saying, 'It’s your job to figure it out?’” she asked. “We’ve gotta spread the love a little.”
Gov. Charlie Baker echoed those frustrations at a press conference Monday when asked about the dozens of congressional Republicans who’ve focused their energy on a futile challenge to President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Baker said federal leaders ought to be "doing everything ... to make sure every vulnerable American, every health care worker, every long-term care resident, every long-term care staff member and everybody else gets access to those two doses as soon as practically possible.”
Gergen Barnett expressed some appreciation for Biden’s promise to commit more federal funding towards distribution, with a goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. She liked his approach to a "wartime set of priorities," adding that, "It is a war, and we need to move really quickly."
The one million per day goal, however, is still shy of her estimate that proper distribution would include "three to four million” inoculations per day.
She said the root issue has existed long before the Trump administration and lies in a general lack of understanding on the part of federal leaders about the importance of public health infrastructure.
"The fact is … we have long underfunded public health in our country,” she lamented. "It is a real travesty, and one that has been highlighted, unfortunately … in terms of the way we’ve been able to respond to this pandemic.”