Editorial: County should keep adapting to find best plan for mass vaccinations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 17, 2021

Last week marked the first major test of the Rowan County Health Department’s vaccination plans.

Including those who arrived too late, as many as 1,000 people may have gotten in line Monday or Thursday to receive a vaccination.

There were only 200 vaccines to administer Tuesday and 600 on Thursday — a supply issue that has its roots at much higher levels than county government, but local folks adapted. County staff handed out tickets on Thursday to 600 people so that they didn’t have to wait more time than needed in line to find out if they were too late.

And folks who were able to receive a vaccine Thursday generally had good things to say about it, provided that they brought something to occupy their time while waiting.

But the Health Department should continue to consider whether changes are needed to the way in which it delivers vaccine and adapt as needed. It’s simultaneously a blessing and a curse that there’s no playbook that tells a local health department how to seamlessly administer a vaccine during a global pandemic.

One adaptation worth continued exploration is whether appointments have a place as part of a mixed-method approach.

Appointments don’t necessarily have to involve people sitting in a chair for a vaccine. A drive-thru method still seems to be the most efficient. However, if the county has the technological infrastructure to make it happen, appointments could be made for blocks of time — where people sign up to receive a vaccine between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., for example, and save some time idling in the West End Plaza parking lot.

To be clear, the most significant vaccine-related problem is the supply, which has proven to be below demand. There, vaccine companies, private providers, state government and the feds bear a burden to improve, including ensuring supplies are equitably distributed. Meanwhile, the county should continue adapting so that it’s ready when vaccinations are opened for the general public. That’s when it will be critical to have a nearly seamless system.