Why isn't the COVID-19 vaccine available for all Americans yet? - opinion

For now, unless you’re an essential healthcare worker or the resident of a home for the elderly, the vaccine is about as real to you as the tooth fairy.

US SPEAKER of the House Nancy Pelosi receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Capitol in Washington, earlier this month. (photo credit: ANNA MONEYMAKER/REUTERS)
US SPEAKER of the House Nancy Pelosi receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Capitol in Washington, earlier this month.
For a country inhabited by citizens who have spent the last few months killing one another over wearing masks and social distancing, you’d think we’d at least agree that everyone should have the opportunity to get the vaccine – immediately!
But nothing doing. For now, unless you’re an essential healthcare worker or the resident of a home for the elderly, the vaccine is about as real to you as the tooth fairy. It is nowhere to be found.
This is ridiculous given that media reports have it that Moderna had developed the essentials of the vaccine back in January, just two days after China release the DNA of the virus. Here is New York magazine’s Intelligencer report on the vaccine:
“You may be surprised to learn that... Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5% efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab.
“In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.
“By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial.
“This is – as the country and the world are rightly celebrating – the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it.”
So the vaccine has essentially been available for this entire, horrible year, but it understandably had to go through months of testing. Still, it’s a sobering thought that the cure was always there even as more than 300,000 – and counting – have died of the disease.
But now that it has been completely approved, why is it almost nowhere to be found? Shouldn’t it have been mass-produced and distributed in anticipation of its eventual approval, which has now happened?
How is it that every CVS and Walgreens in America has five thousand bottles of Coke, Sprite and every other sugary drink in such incredible abundance but not a single vile of the vaccine? Is Coca-Cola really a more competent distributor, with greater resources, than the United States government?
The absence of the vaccine while Americans continue to quake with fear of the virus – amid a terrible winter surge – has become a national embarrassment.
As of this writing, Israel has announced that it has already vaccinated some 350,000 people, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will be over the coronavirus by March. Compare this to the United States, which developed the vaccines in the first place, and where the general population, Dr. Anthony Fauci tell us, should be able to get the vaccine in, say, about June or July.
What? Are you kidding me? Six more months of this hell, and we already have a vaccine but haven’t distributed it?
That means six more months of mass deaths, sickness, ventilators, failed businesses, mass unemployment, and the social unrest hell of people on the Right and Left assailing each other about wearing masks and eating in restaurants – all while we actually have a cure to the pandemic.
Come to New York and you’ll see the consequences of the vaccines not being available. Come and see all the closed restaurants, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has closed all indoor dining. Yes, you can eat outdoors and protect yourself against the coronavirus while contracting pneumonia.
And lest my column be seen as a criticism of the federal government, consider this.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has already announced that anyone 75 and over can now get the vaccine. This, while the elderly in New Jersey and New York and the other major population areas of the Northeast are still only up to medical workers and residents of assisted care facilities.
How is it possible that New York and New Jersey, among the worst hit of all the states, don’t have enough doses of the vaccine to begin distributing to the elderly unless they’re in nursing homes? And who can blame those who aren’t in nursing homes, given the catastrophic mistake made early on of putting those infected with the virus into the nursing homes in the first place.
How did the state and federal governments mess this up so badly?
Every day we hear Cuomo telling us we have to wear our masks and that, beware, your synagogues can become super-spreader events. I respect his caution. He’s looking out for life. But where the hell are the vaccines that can end this curse once and for all?
I believe in masks. I believe in social distancing. But above all else, I believe in the vaccine. And I can’t believe that the country that developed it can’t get it to its citizens.
It was already a bad enough national embarrassment when Britain began vaccinating its citizens with the American Pfizer vaccine even before the United States. We all watched as Britain proudly became the first Western nation to begin the end of the pandemic.
I wonder how all those brave medical researchers who developed the vaccine in record time reacted as they saw a medical establishment here in the United States lack the audacity to be the first one to inoculate vulnerable American citizens and stop the suffering and dying.
Masks are only a temporary solution. Social distancing and shutting down the country is likewise a temporary and highly destructive – albeit necessary – solution. Not so the vaccine, which is what will return all our lives back to normal (or what passes for normal in the insanity of modern times).
So how is it that a country that, in record time, moved millions of soldiers to Europe to defeat Hitler, island-hopped across the Pacific to defeat Japanese imperialism, landed a man on the moon, landed spacecraft on Mars and largely invented the Internet, suddenly cannot produce enough of its own vaccines to inoculate its citizens in the worst public health disaster in a hundred years?
We produce enough grain and wheat to feed the world. Our grocery stores are, thank God, overflowing with food even in the pandemic.
But the thing we need the most right now – the vaccine that will put an end to this soul-destroying misery – won’t arrive until at least the summer.
There is no excuse. We have to do better. We have to choose life. Yes, prioritize medical workers, first responders, truck drivers and all the other essential workers. But get the vaccines out to the general public already so we can save life, save the economy and be a normal country again.
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.