Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in America has been poor at best and a fiasco at worst depending on your access to health care or profession. We should all be embarrassed at the process and abundant incompetence.

Just this week a glimmer of good news quickly soured. Officials in several states, including California, announced access would be expanded to include most people over age 65, however it took mere hours for this seemingly positive story to go bad. Turns out the Federal government misled states with its announcement that access should be expanded. Some governors are saying they Feds made promises they couldn’t keep, others are saying it was just another example of the gross incompetence related to inter-governmental communication that has hampered almost all efforts today.

Either way, there isn’t enough vaccine to substantially increase access right now and distribution of what we do have is confusing to everyone involved, even to the professionals.

The latest debacle here in Los Angeles county is about leftover vaccine. Due to the vaccine’s short lifespan at room temperature, clinics may find they have excess doses following canceled appointments. It’s also possible (although it hasn’t been a large problem yet) that an equipment failure could require mass dispersal of doses in a short time.

Current rules established by the Department of Public Health require excess doses be offered to specific groups and actually prohibit distribution to individuals who are not part of a priority list so a clinic can be faced with either destroying vitally important vaccine or violating rules by offering it to whoever they can in the short time frame it is still viable.

In the few public cases we know of, clinics have all done the right thing and used the vaccine to inoculate whoever they can and the County has said its not going to punish clinics who do so but it’s a stupid problem to have to start with.

These problems are far beyond Santa Monica’s scope of responsibility and as residents, there’s little we can do at this point about vaccines. However, there’s actually a lot we can do to mitigate the continuing danger posed by the problem.

We can wear masks when around other people regardless of duration, surrounding and personal knowledge regarding positivity. Wear a mask all the time, every time. We can stay away from crowds and crowded situations. If you don’t have to go inside a store or business, don’t. Just don’t. When it is really necessary, be quick, be efficient and don’t bring a crowd with you.

Los Angeles is on the verge of additional restrictions based on our inability to curb the spread so far and there’s no evidence that widespread vaccines are going to pull us out of this in the short term. If we hope to save lives and livelihoods we have to continue our self-imposed restrictions for the foreseeable future.

SMDP Editorial Board