Private Sector Screws Up Vaccine Dispersal

By Peter Galuszka

For more than a year, there has been a stream of criticism of government handling of the COVID vaccine.

On this blog, there has been a relentless pounding of Gov. Ralph Northam for his role in trying to navigate the pandemic that has so far killed more than 500,000 Americans. This is a far greater number than all of U.S. troops killed in World War II.

Now, two members of Congress, both moderate Democrats, are raising questions about the current system of providing vaccines. The private sector has a lot to answer for.

According to U.S. Rep. Abigail D. Spanberger (7th District) and Rep. Elaine G. Luria (2nd District), the current system is confusing, as large pharmacy companies CVS and Walgreen try to handle giving people protective shots.

Of special note is their concern that the current system favors the rich over the poor. In their letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers fort Disease Control and Protection, they wrote:

“Unfortunately, the complicated array of programs has caused significant confusion and frustration for public health officials and the general public. The varied eligibility requirements and appointment-making procedures favor the technologically savvy and well-resourced who can navigate the different systems. Retail pharmacy partners have been reluctant to coordinate their outreach and appointments with state public health officials’ priorities, meaning vulnerable individuals patiently waiting their turn according to health department guidelines could be passed over.’

In other words, if you are poor, don’t have access to the internet or are elderly and not familiar with how to handle computers, you are pretty much out of luck. Blacks and Latinos have been hit proportionately harder than whites by COVID- 19.

Take my experience. I am 68 years old and am eligible for the vaccine. I had thought of getting it at the nearby CVS Pharmacy that I have used for years. In general I have had good experiences there. If there are problems, they are generally caused by new and inexperienced technicians who don’t seem to know what prescriptions drugs are and can’t handle insurance.

My CVS has really let me down. I recently went to get a prescription and I asked the technician how could I get a vaccine appointment. He abruptly told me to go the

I did and found the page highly confusing and impenetrable. For days, I found that appointments were “fully booked.”

I asked CVS people what to do. They said that I should get up at 4 a.m. or so and make an Internet appointment. One helpful CVS woman explained that they only get so many vaccines a day and they go quickly. She said that this should clear up as more doses become available.

CVS is getting state and federal government help in distributing the vaccine, so my tax dollars are contributing to a very flawed system. It is odd because West Virginia, a poor state, seemed quite capable of using retail drug stores to distribute the vaccine.

The point is that the private sector is failing its job. Bashing Northam, a favorite pastime on this blog, misses the point.