Nov 23, 2020
Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have estimated they will have enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate 22.5 million people in the U.S. by the end of January. That is, a small section of the total U.S. population.
Producing billions of doses for large scale immunizations is a lot harder than making thousands of vaccine doses for a clinical trial.
Large scale vaccine production is a complex process, requiring precise ingredients and specialized equipment to produce and distribute them. All these are currently in short supply, showing how disorganized this capitalist society is in responding to this very deadly crisis.
Some of these vaccines are based on new technologies that come with new problems. For example, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept supercooled to 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, from the time it is produced until a few days before it is injected. Pfizer has devised an elaborate system to transport the vaccine by truck and specially designed packaging to vaccination sites, but deploying this vaccine in large quantities requires availability of vast numbers of such specialized equipment.
Besides solving these technical and manufacturing hurdles, health organizations like hospitals and clinics need to acquire equipment for vaccine storage and administration, and to employ health workers trained to deal with the specialized equipment. Acquiring such equipment and health care workers requires a level of funding health organizations currently do not have.
As these pharmaceutical companies admit in their press releases about the risks, they do not know how safe and effective these vaccines will be in real life circumstances when the public is vaccinated in massive numbers. Risks are usually assessed by tracking people over a period of time after they are vaccinated. But such tracking also requires financial resources to fund such post‑vaccination work, which is not being provided today in the rush to bring these vaccines to market.
Responsibility for on‑the‑ground vaccine distribution has largely been delegated to state and local health departments. These organizations were already underfunded and understaffed before the pandemic started, and are even more so now. They need billions more to carry out this work—and nothing has been proposed at any level of government. So how is it going to happen?
In general, shortages of healthcare workers, like nurses, had already been an ongoing issue in the U.S. for years before the pandemic even started. Now, healthcare facilities are facing even more extreme staff shortages because of the enormous spread of COVID‑19 across the U.S.
In sum, rolling out these vaccines for immunization of hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and billions in this world is turning out to be a huge social task that capitalist society is showing itself incapable of implementing.