The COVID vaccine should be distributed on a first come, first serve basis to prevent wasting millions of doses

  • US vaccine distribution efforts have been ineffective as the federal government missed their December target by over 10 million doses.
  • Countless vaccine doses will expire before reaching millions of Americans eager to become inoculated.
  • To address this issue, vaccines should be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. 
  • Anthony DiMauro is a New York-based writer.
  • Leonard Robinson is a business journalist who has been published in Consumers' Research, Baltimore Business Journal, Reason, and the Washington Blade. 
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the authors. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

After over a quarter million deaths from COVID-19 and months of desperately awaiting a vaccine to reach herd immunity, federal government inefficiency and state prioritization guidelines have led to several million doses of the vaccines on track to expire. 

We must stop wasting these precious vaccines and inoculate on a first come, first serve basis.

Many prioritized groups have opted out of vaccination

States across the country have set various prioritization guidelines where particular classes of citizens receive the vaccine in phases. In most — if not all — cases, first-line responders, medical workers, and individuals over 60 years old are first to receive the vaccine.

However, between the slow-moving distribution process behind Operation Warp Speed  and countless healthcare workers opting not to receive the vaccine, vaccine doses are left to sit and expire. Expiring doses are the result of strict phasing guidelines limiting distribution to specific priority groups, such as front-line workers and elderly. These state guidelines are enforced by steep fines for healthcare professionals who distribute outside of the mandated priority groups. This is evidenced by the mere 13% of the doses distributed to phase 1 facilities which have been given. As for those opting out: 50% of California frontline workers have balked at taking the vaccine. Meanwhile, 60% of nursing home staff in Ohio have refused despite their priority access. And more than half of New York City firefighters have also said they will not take the vaccine. 

Moreover, a staggering 62% of Americans, says a recent Pew Research poll, are uncomfortable with taking the vaccine, with one out of five respondents not expecting to change their minds at all. 

Ensuring that everyone already convinced of the vaccine's efficacy has access to inoculation should be our first priority. Transitioning to a first come, first serve model is the most efficient way to achieve this. It is the obvious first step to ensure an adequate amount of the American population becomes vaccinated, as it eases the burden of convincing the skeptical, who will have the opportunity to watch what happens to those who have decided to get vaccinated and reevaluate in the months ahead.

Not to mention, at the current rate — only about 2 million Americans vaccinated thus far — it would take 10 years to properly inoculate enough Americans to a point of reaching herd immunity. 

Who's to blame? 

Governors such as California's Gavin Newsom and New York's Andrew Cuomo are to blame. After all, not only have they sowed seeds of skepticism among the general public about the vaccine for cheap political points — or, in Cuomo's case, a book tour and an Emmy — but they have been wastefully stringent in distributing the vaccine doses to their citizens. 

For instance, Governor Newsom's (and his COVID-inspired "Western States Pact") unwarranted insistence that any FDA approved vaccine undergo additional scrutiny could possibly be a factor in his state's frontline worker's skepticism towards the vaccine. And in New York — the state leading the country in deaths caused by COVID-19 — Governor Cuomo's most recent murderous executive order instituted new penalties for healthcare providers who disregard state prioritization schemes in the face of vaccine expiration.

Enforcing state guidelines seems obviously less important compared to the significant loss incurred from each expired vaccine dose. Elderly patients and frontline workers are of course most at risk of COVID-19 — and, at first glance, it makes good sense to prioritize them receiving the vaccine — but with many refusing inoculation to the point of wastefulness, alternatives must be considered. 

Ultimately, to avoid expirations, state leaders need to get serious about simply using the vaccines — giving to anyone and everyone who wants it.

Anthony DiMauro is a New York-based writer. He has been published in  Bloomberg, Business Insider, Slate and elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyMDiMauro.

Leonard Robinson is a business journalist who has been published in Consumer's Research, Baltimore Business Journal, Carolina Journal, and Reason among others. You can follow him on Twitter @leonardwrites 

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