Vaccine rollout is key

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Vaccine rollout is key

The author is a Washington correspondentof the JoongAng Ilbo.

On Jan. 4, I visited a pharmacy inside a giant supermarket near Chinatown in Washington D.C. The pharmacy started to offer Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines, and recently, a young man posted on social media that he received a vaccine shot from here even though he was not a health care worker or a senior.

The pharmacy offered leftover vaccines to those who are not eligible. Moderna vaccines come in a bottle of 10 doses that can be stored at room temperature for 24 hours. Once a bottle is opened in the morning and if any dose is left in the evening, the pharmacy gives them to those who want to get vaccinated rather than discarding them.

Around closing time, I expected the pharmacy to be crowded, but there was no one. I asked people who were shopping. Ian Simon, a science policy researcher, said that he frequently visits this supermarket but never heard it was offering leftover vaccines. If he had known, he would have gotten it and informed senior citizens as well.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged woman named Ellen Zhao said she would not get vaccinated now, citing a conspiracy theory about big pharma. As she left, she told me not to get vaccinated.

Some people are not informed, and others are not convinced. Pharmacies have leftovers, but vaccines are not administered. This is happening in the capital of the United States, so you can guess why vaccination in America is not speeding up.

As part of Operation Warp Speed, 17.02 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been distributed via FedEx and UPS. The Center for Disease Control estimates that as of Jan. 5, 4.84 million people have received the first dose, some 28 percent of the distributed vaccines. In Kansas, 7 percent of the vaccines has been administered, and in California, where the population is large, 11 percent of the distributed vaccines has been administered.

Covid-19 vaccine administration has to take longer than others. Firstly, vaccination centers require space for social distancing as well as a separate locations to monitor side effects for 15 minutes after administration. Reasons for delay include a lack of infrastructure, the massive size of the country and distrust of vaccines, but it all boils down to one factor. The federal government transferred the authority to local governments, and they are not prepared.

Herd immunity can only be achieved when distributed vaccines are well-administered. Korea needs to watch the trial and errors and prepare to make a creative response. Korea may be relatively late to purchase vaccines but could be the first to get out of the crisis depending on how effectively it administers the vaccines once it gets them.
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