The rollout of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine was badly bungled by the federal government, and the problems are reverberating in Maryland and into Frederick County.
We hope the vaccination program will be the Trump administration’s final failure in battling the coronavirus pandemic. The president downplayed the severity of the virus, politicized the wearing of masks to curb the spread, promoted fake “cures” and abdicated responsibility for providing guidance for state and local governments. The death toll has passed 400,000 Americans, and now, we have this mess.
Senior citizens, rightfully fearful of perishing from the dreaded disease, are especially anxious. Many are trying anything they can think of: filling out forms on the county Health Department website, contacting their doctors, exchanging tips with friends, and waiting for announcements about when and how and where the vaccines will be available.
Gail Fineberg, 81, of Frederick, told News-Post reporter Greg Swatek that she has been faithfully logging onto the Frederick County Health Department’s website for almost a week trying to set up an appointment for her and her husband, Todd, 75, to be vaccinated but without success.
“I have been perfectly happy to wait for a year,” Fineberg told our reporter. “But, when it’s promised, it’s the inability to deliver that is frustrating.”
The federal government poured billions of dollars into helping scientists at drug companies develop the vaccines in record time, giving hope to the millions of Americans trying to fend off the disease.
But it made no plans to get Americans vaccinated. Once again, state and local governments were told, in so many words: “You’re on your own! Good luck!”
Ezra Klein, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, said it best:
“But vaccines don’t save people; vaccinations do. And vaccinating more than 300 million people, at breakneck speed, is a challenge that only the federal government has the resources to meet. The Trump administration, in other words, had it backward. The development of the vaccines meant merely that the most logistically daunting phase of the crisis, in terms of the federal government’s role, could finally begin.”
Sadly, Maryland and other state and local governments have not proved up to the task yet. With no clear federal direction and without sufficient financial aid, the vaccination program has lagged.
Less than 10 percent of the vaccines needed in Maryland have even been received. As of Monday, only 255,110 of the 551,700 vaccines received had been administered, according to the state.
So, there is not enough supply and no good system for getting it to residents.
And yet, Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week he was expanding the pool of people eligible to get the vaccine. Anyone over 75 could be vaccinated starting this week, and anyone over 65 could get the shot next week.
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner expressed her frustration.
“Intended or not, the governor’s announcement of expanded eligibility groups has left an impression that vaccine was available to advance these eligibility groups,” Gardner said in an email to the News-Post.
The failure to create a workable system has exacerbated frustrations.
“Because the state did not implement a pre-registration system, the county government is working to develop one,” Gardner said. “Because the state did not set up a call center to help seniors and people without internet access to register or schedule a vaccination appointment, the county government is standing this up too.”
All right, folks, let’s try to stay calm. We know it is frustrating, but we encourage everyone to keep the faith and stay strong in the fight against the disease.
Eventually, the vaccines will be administered, we will defeat the virus, and life will return to something resembling normal. It has been terribly slow, but we will get through this.