Actionable lessons for the US COVID vaccine program

Isr J Health Policy Res. 2021 Feb 19;10(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s13584-021-00452-2.

Abstract

When attempting to provide lessons for other countries from the successful Israeli COVID-19 vaccine experience, it is important to distinguish between the modifiable and non-modifiable components identified in the article by Rosen, et al. Two specific modifiable components included in the Israeli program from which the US can learn are (a) a national (not individual state-based) strategy for vaccine distribution and administration and (b) a functioning public health infrastructure. As a federal government, the US maintains an often complex web of state and national authorities and responsibilities. The federal government assumed responsibility for the ordering, payment and procurement of COVID vaccine from manufacturers. In designing the subsequent steps in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration plan, the Trump administration decided to rely on the states themselves to determine how best to implement guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This strategy resulted in 50 different plans and 50 different systems for the dissemination of vaccine doses, all at the level of each individual state. State health departments were neither financed, experienced nor uniformly possessed the expertise to develop and implement such plans. A national strategy for the distribution, and the workforce for the provision, of vaccine beyond the state level, similar to that which occurred in Israel, would have provided for greater efficiency and coordination across the country. The US public health infrastructure was ill-prepared and ill-staffed to take on the responsibility to deliver > 450 million doses of vaccine in an expeditious fashion, even if supply of vaccine was available. The failure to adequately invest in public health has been ubiquitous across the nation at all levels of government. Since the 2008 recession, state and local health departments have lost > 38,000 jobs and spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%. Hopefully, COVID-19 will be a wakeup call to the US with regard to the need for both a national strategy to address public health emergencies and the well-maintained infrastructure to make it happen.

Keywords: COVID-19; Immunization; Policy; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Comment