The first COVID-19 vaccine was authorized in December of 2020, but three months out, much of the general public is waiting to receive a shot. After enduring nearly a year of the coronavirus pandemic, many are holding out hope that herd immunity will allow life to return “to normal” by the summer. Yet vaccination rates aren’t supporting that timeline.
A COVID-19 vaccine has been called a “light at the end of the tunnel” for months now. Ever since the pandemic hit, people have been eyeing possible remedies to the global situation. While vaccines were originally thought to play only a modest role in controlling the virus back when vaccine effectiveness was expected to be close to 50%, the incredible accomplishments of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to achieve 95% effectiveness has opened up the possibility of an expedited timeline to normalcy.
However, even though vaccines have been on the government’s radar since early April, a mismanaged distribution plan has plagued rollout. Greatly impacted by the lack of a framework put in place by the previous White House administration, the Biden-Harris team has worked hard to accelerate the timeline of vaccinations. After inheriting a “nonexistent plan,” as per the White House, great gains have been made since Biden’s inauguration, seemingly putting the country on track to reach the “100 million vaccinations in 100 days.” This is part of the administration’s broader goal of reaching national herd immunity by the fall.
Massachusetts is still in the early stages of vaccination distribution. Residents aged 65 and older recently became eligible to receive their shots, but few citizens are eligible to receive a vaccine even while current supply and appointments remain scarce. After a lackluster initial campaign, Massachusetts has vaulted itself into the top 10 states for highest vaccination rate for initial doses. Governor Charlie Baker has stated that Massachusetts is planning to begin the third stage of vaccinations, open to the general public, by April. However, this is still a fluid date.
External factors outside of Massachusetts’ control have also plagued vaccine rollout. The crisis that unfolded in Texas in mid-February resulted in a bottleneck in the vaccine distribution chain, nearly causing weeks of vaccine shipments to be delayed. The situation was so dire that at one point, Baker was prepared to send the state’s national guard to Texas in order to retrieve the shipment. Thankfully, this situation was avoided when federal transportation and distribution assistance stepped in, and no appointments needed to be canceled.
From the standpoint of the CA community, teachers not already eligible to receive the vaccine will become eligible by March, according to the Mass.gov vaccination website. Students with no current eligibility or COVID-19 comorbidities appear unlikely to be vaccinated until April, or possibly later. Current demand and wait times seem to hint that there will be initial supply issues when the floodgates are opened to the public. While the dream of a vaccinated spring may dance around in student’s heads, it seems unlikely this will be obtainable until mid-May, or even later.