We need all-hands-on-deck mobilization. Let’s call upon the United States Public Health Service Corps, the Medical Reserve Corps, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross, and our military to help build a literal army of vaccinators. In addition, we need to work through national associations while also enlisting community health workers who are not already exhausted hospital employees. We need to invest in human capital.
We need vaccination center infrastructure. Given the failures of COVID-19 testing, we now know that relying on pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals alone will likely be inadequate. We need to set up mass vaccination centers – such as utilizing stadiums, athletic fields, or military-style pavilions, capable of inoculating thousands every day. Ideally, these would be open with extended and late hours. For hard-to-reach communities, we need mobile units.
President Biden announced Thursday that the Defense Production Act would be used to ramp up vaccination supplies to help ensure shortages do not occur. This can provide private companies the ability to fast-track contracts to accelerate supply, secure more of the vaccine, and increase the availability of supporting equipment like materials and syringes. This welcome move should have been done earlier.
We need innovation to streamline processes – such as a national app and website to complete consent and paperwork prior to arrival. This would allow someone to simply show up at their allocated time and receive the vaccine. These formats should also incorporate widespread educational campaigns to combat disinformation. Disinformation has corrupted impressionable minds and turned scientific feats into conspiracy.
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Lastly, we need all of these steps to occur with urgency and transparency. In order to win our battle against COVID-19, there must be unity in our country. The virus thrives on chaos.
The cavalry has arrived against our war with COVID-19. Vaccines have proven to be safe and effective – but in order to work, they need to be injected. We must demand our federal government to lead us into battle and step up with wartime-like mobilization of resources. Too many Americans have died – we deserve better.
Jesse O’Shea, M.D., is an infectious disease physician in Atlanta.