EDITORIAL: Better public health system would make vaccines occur more smoothly

Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·1 min read

Feb. 18—The haphazard rollout of COVID-19 vaccines makes the United States an outlier when compared to most other countries, where distribution has been less confusing and more comprehensive.

It's not a supply problem because every country faces supply issues.

The fundamental difference is that most other developed countries have more centralized health care policy and institutions than does the United States. When President Donald Trump deferred the last leg of vaccine distribution — actual injections of the vaccines into people — the system became a hodge-podge of 50 different systems operated by state governments through thousands of county subdivisions and private sector health care dividers.

That is one major reason that the United Kingdom, with a single health care system, has been able to vaccinate its residents at 1.5 times the pace of the American effort.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden's science adviser, said Tuesday that he expects the vaccination pace to accelerate and that, in April, vaccine supplies will exceed demand.

That largely is because the federal government has taken greater control over the distribution process to meet states' needs.

One of the lessons of the pandemic, which will not be the last one, is that the United States needs a stronger federally operated public health system. Congress should bolster the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and empower the agency to plan and execute a cohesive, comprehensive emergency response and vaccine distribution plan for the next time an infectious disease pandemic strikes.