| The Beat |

Who’s Calling The Shots?   

At the rate this is going, the city’s eight million residents will have their double dosage by mid-2022
 

For anyone in New York City seeking the COVID vaccine, they’re up against a giant math problem.

For months we’ve been told that we just have to wait until the vaccine is here and then life will be able to start resuming. The government had months to prepare for this moment, but — surprise — they bungled it. It’s “incredibly frustrating,” says Councilman Mark Levine, a Harlem Democrat who chairs the health committee, and whose Twitter has been a fount of clear direction since the beginning of the pandemic. “The city did not respond with enough urgency,” he says, “and we lost precious weeks.”

Feds Rationing Doses

The biggest problem is the lack of supply. The state divided the population into stages of priority, with the first consisting of a million first responders such as doctors, nurses and nursing home workers, and the second being two million police officers, firefighters, teachers, and those over 65. They’re up to stage two now, meaning three million people are ready for a shot in the arm, but the federal government is not giving more than 100,000 doses a week to the city. And that doesn’t account for the 28 percent of first responders who, according to Levine, live outside city limits. “It’s unfair the way they calculate how much each jurisdiction receives,” he says.

Of the 800,500 vaccines delivered so far, New York City has distributed about half. At the rate this is going, the city’s eight million residents will have their double dosage by mid-2022.

Plain Incompetence

Vaccine distribution centers have been too slow to open enough sites and failed to staff them adequately, Levine says. Adding to this is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcing stiff fines for vaccinating the wrong person or for hospitals not using up all their doses.

“You don’t want to be slowed down by overly rigid rules,” Levine said. “I think the fines have led some providers to be reluctant to take a large number of doses because they could get in trouble. So I don’t think the fines are helpful.”

Seniors Admission

The hardest hit by COVID were the seniors, so it makes sense that seniors be the first to get a shot at immunization. But the portal set up to make an appointment would tax the savvy of a young programmer, let alone rotary phone users. Levine calls for replacing these with an easy-to-use online portal similar to a travel website such as Expedia, and phone system for those without Internet access.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that the elderly will be provided with free transportation to vaccine sites. Levine, however, wants the opposite done — nurses should be visiting them at home. Many of the estimated hundreds of thousands of elderly or ill New Yorkers already have home health aides or visiting nurses — “Why not just empower the nurses or health aides to give the vaccine?” he wondered.

What’s Next?

Levine held a hearing last week into the city’s vaccination pace but did not get good answers from officials. He expects it will take until “the middle of this year” for the general population to begin getting their shot in the arm.

He said that President Joe Biden has promised to activate the Defense Production Act to harness the power of the military to produce vaccines.

And by the end of the summer, he added, “I’m hopeful that we can start to have normal social gatherings. Just between now and then we have a tough fight ahead of us.”

—Yochonon Donn

 

100 million

Meanwhile, with New York struggling on the vaccine front, Team Biden has set a national goal of 100 million vaccines in one hundred days. But even in this most optimistic scenario, it will be about a year before all residents of the United States receive two doses of vaccine and “herd immunity” is achieved. This means that corona will hover over America like a cloud during 2021.

The faltering vaccine system in the United States stems from the fundamental differences between states. In West Virginia, for example, the vaccine rate is very fast. But in other states there is a combination of unclear criteria, plus Internet and phone booking systems that can’t cope with the order traffic, and only very few have so far been vaccinated. For that to change, a holistic approach to leadership led by the federal government is needed. And that will be Biden’s real challenge in his first hundred days in the White House.

—Omri Nahmias

 

PASSING OF A PATRON

“Until Sheldon came along, and Israel Hayom broke the left-wing media monopoly, every politician knew that if they wanted to get ahead, and gain exposure, they had to ingratiate themselves to the left. The only newspapers with a right-wing slant, were small, local, or religious publications. Sheldon changed that paradigm. And he didn’t do it for the profit motive, but because he wanted to contribute to the Jewish nation. He remade the entire Israeli political constellation into something more conservative, Jewish, and nationalistic.”

Ariel Kahane, Israel Hayom’s chief political correspondent, on the passing of Sheldon Adelson

—Binyamin Rose

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 845)

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