The time for planning and organization was six months ago

Published 6:29 pm Friday, January 29, 2021

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Have you ever attended an event that was extremely unorganized? An event where you know the people in charge just couldn’t manage to pull things together and get everything to run smoothly. I can think of a few examples I’ve attended over the years.

Some people may like the unpredictability of a disorganized event, but I find it extremely frustrating. It’s understandable that things don’t always go perfectly – that’s just how life is sometimes – but things generally go better when you actually take the time to prepare for the bumps in the road that may pop up.

Crossing your fingers and winging it doesn’t actually work very well. It just wastes time, energy, and resources that could have been avoided with better planning.

The COVID-19 vaccine distribution in North Carolina (and more broadly, across many parts of the country) has so far been disappointingly disorganized.

Despite the fact that officials with the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) have had months to come up with a streamlined, efficient plan for getting vaccines to the population, this week has shown that the plan is anything but efficient.

I have several complaints.

I think our local vaccine providers have done a decent job so far, but that job is made much more difficult when the allocations and directions from the state are doled out inconsistently. Just recently, Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS) switched away from their newly-implemented pre-registration process in favor of “first come, first serve” clinics again.

And I believe that change was due to sudden new directions from NCDHHS. According to a Jan. 26 letter from NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen sent as an explanation to vaccine providers, the state faced a potential threat of reduced amounts of vaccine from the federal government if they had a large amount of unused supply left on hand.

“We had to make difficult allocation decisions in order to clear our backlog of first doses and provide strong proof that North Carolina can exhaust our weekly first dose allotments and give vaccines quickly,” she stated in the letter, also noting that NCDHHS approved several large-scale vaccination sites as well to tackle this task.

Perhaps if NCDHHS had devoted some time in the past six months or so to coming up with a comprehensive statewide plan for vaccine distribution, these kinds of last-minute changes would not be necessary. There are 100 different counties across North Carolina and probably almost as many vaccine distributors. And each one seems to have a different way of distributing the shot. I think they all would have benefitted from a more unified plan for distribution directed by the state.

Maybe it would have saved some headaches.

Of course, having a plan for distribution doesn’t really matter if you aren’t allocated any doses at all.

According to reporting from WUNC Public Radio, the Orange County Health Department hasn’t received any first dose allotment of vaccines in three weeks. I have no idea why, but that sounds like a problem that should be resolved. The Charlotte Observer also reported that Lincoln and Gaston counties didn’t receive their allocations this week, and that seems to be because the state had redistributed vaccines to mass vaccination events, like the one planned to be held at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte this weekend.

How is that fair to people who live outside of large cities like Charlotte?

In addition to these distribution issues, NCDHHS has said previously that they will allow people from other states to be vaccinated in North Carolina.

With supplies already extremely limited, doesn’t it make more sense that vaccine doses sent to North Carolina should be used for North Carolina residents?

I’m not an expert, so I will admit that I don’t always have the full picture of the situation, and I’m not the one in charge of providing vaccines to North Carolina’s 10 million residents. There is a lot of uncertainty to account for. But from the information I do have, it does not look like the current process is very effective and could have been better prepared for before the vaccinations even began.

There’s good news at least: North Carolina will be getting a 16 percent increase in vaccine shipments over the next three weeks. That’s better than the extremely limited supplies the state has had to deal with this past week.

But that doesn’t make up for the lack of preparation before now.

We’re all ready for this pandemic to be over. It is my hope that the vaccine distribution process in North Carolina quickly becomes much more efficient, and people in rural communities like our own are not the ones left suffering because of disorganization we have no control over.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at 252-332-7206.