Throwing away our shots

New York Daily News

Jan. 31

New York is rounding the bend toward week eight of COVID vaccinations. In hindsight, it’s clear neither city nor state were ready to efficiently, equitably distribute the lifesaving shots. A raft of problems must be ironed out quickly if the coming months of inoculation are to work better than the unacceptably slow, clunky, frustrating start.

Distribution has gone slowly in almost everywhere; the Trump administration’s refusal to offer states aid last fall didn’t help, but that’s no excuse for the fact that supplies have taken far too long to work their ways into the arms that need them most.

How has the job been botched? Let us count the ways.

State and city officials can’t seem to make up their minds what’s most important — getting as many shots to as many people as quickly as possible or ensuring equity in vaccine distribution. There isn’t a simple right answer; the key is to prioritize speed without compromising equity.

So it is unhelpful to limit locations where any of the millions of New Yorkers eligible for vaccines can go to receive them. Gov. Cuomo’s rule that pharmacies may vaccinate only the elderly, and county governments may only vaccinate eligible categories of essential workers, is counterproductive.

Meanwhile, both the city and state created sign-up systems that have made it hard for those who most need the shots and also tend to be least internet-savvy — the elderly, nonwhite and non-wealthy — to snag a spot in line. Navigating sign-up websites is obscenely complex, and in some cases requires the ability to read and write in English.

It’s a colossal civic embarrassment that the only website where New Yorkers can find all available vaccine appointments citywide is created not by the government, but by a gung-ho group of volunteers.

Do better. Now.

By Patricia Older