Vaccines, Incompetence and the Big Lie

There is an old joke asking how you know a politician is lying?  You know when their lips are moving, of course.

If we were honest, even most of his admirers would admit that the presidency of Donald Trump brought that to a new level. Well, it didn’t take long for that to become the ‘new normal’. When asked about the slow rate of vaccination, several governors are blaming the Federal government by saying the Feds need to ship more vaccines.

We can cut right to the point and just say ‘that is a big lie’. Governors who have failed to plan to effectively combat the biggest health crisis in a century aren’t about to take the blame. They have to put it somewhere and so they say they need to get more vaccines and blame the Federal government. If we look at the actual information we have, we can see the real problem pretty readily.

A very short look at the facts will show that isn’t the case. Quite the contrary. The Federal government and drug companies have shipped more vaccinations than states have administered. A lot more. So the problem is not a shortage of vaccines, as the governors of New York and Wisconsin and other states would have us believe. The problem is a lack of planning on how to get the vaccines administered.

Case Study of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Evers and the person in charge of fighting the pandemic, Secretary of Wisconsin’s Dept. of Health Services Andrea Palm, have complained that they do not have enough vaccines and the effort to vaccinate people to stop the pandemic is behind target, as a result. Because we want to use data to look at problems and not just listen to what politicians say, let’s do that and use Wisconsin as an example.

As of this past Thursday, Wisconsin had 779,800 vaccine doses with another 100,100 in transit. Of that, only 310,256 have been administered. So Wisconsin has roughly 470,000 doses on hand that have not been given to people, and another 100,100 doses are on the way. Based on that and on how many people Wisconsin vaccinated this past week, that means they have roughly a two month supply on hand. Clearly, the problem is NOT that the Federal government has not released enough vaccine doses.

So what is preventing getting the vaccines from storage to the people who want it? In short, incompetence.

Secretary Palm has had ten months to plan how to get vaccines to people who need it. Can there be any doubt that in 2020 there is nothing more important for a Secretary of Health Services than to address the pandemic?  It doesn’t take much thinking ahead to realize that, as drug companies worked to develop on vaccines, Palm should have been preparing for how to use those vaccines once they became available. We would assume that she would be looking at state regulations and finding ways to streamline those, making sure they had priorities set and people lined up to give the shots to people on that priority list, and similar things. Yet almost none of that occurred.

In Wisconsin, a state regulation (such as setting a priority for vaccine roll out) requires a period for public comment. Rather than have that priority list ready to go, get public comment ahead of time so that vaccines could be administered as soon as they were received, Palm waited until the state had actually started receiving vaccines to go for the public comment required by law. Palm also could have asked the legislature to make an exception to shorten the period in this critical case but she did not do that either. So Wisconsin, with vaccines on the shelf, had to wait for weeks to allow for public comments on the rollout plan for no other reason than Palm did not plan.

Assisted living facilities have one of the most at risk populations. The good thing, however, is that all of the patients are in one place making it easier to vaccinate residents and staff. Well, one would think that anyway but such is not the case in Wisconsin. A month after receiving vaccines, there are roughly 140,000 residents of assisted living facilities in Wisconsin that have not received their first shot. With the requirement to keep the vaccine at very low temperatures which requires special handling, we could imagine that it might be a concern to go somewhere, take a box (or boxes) of vaccines out of storage and only use a few of them. That could create a logistical problem. That is not the case in such places as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You have dozens of residents, and dozens of staff all in one place. There could be no easier way to distribute the vaccine. Yet Andrea Palm and the Administration of Gov. Evers couldn’t figure that out. (They hope to start vaccinating in assisted living facilities this week.)

A recent headline in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said it was “Every Man for Himself” when it comes to getting a vaccine. In Wisconsin, as in most states, the problem has nothing at all to do with getting enough vaccines. It has to do with the clear and gross incompetence in doing even the most basic preparation to help the state’s people.

Those are just a couple of examples that show Sec. Andrea Palm is incompetent beyond measure. But the really bad news?  Palm has been nominated by President Biden to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. So now we will all get to suffer from her lack of ability.

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