Vaccination Acceleration: Four States Lead the Way
The emergency approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the subsequent distribution and administration was a long-awaited, uplifting turn in the management of the coronavirus.
As of January 31, 49.9 million vaccine doses have been distributed and 29.5 million shots have been administered. While there have been many bumps in the road to immunizing the population (such as New York having to throw out doses due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strict restrictions on who could receive the vaccine) there have been several success stories. Giving states more autonomy over their own vaccine rollout has led to discrepancies between states in the efficiency of administering shots, but four states have been especially effective at getting their population vaccinated: West Virginia, New Mexico, and North and South Dakota.
Although this eclectic quartet may seem surprising, the data is clear. All four states are in the top ten for percent of population given at least one dose (both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses for immunity); but, more importantly, they comprise the top four states for percentage of doses administered. North Dakota leads the country in dispensing 85% of vaccines allocated to the state, with New Mexico at 78%, West Virginia at 76%, and South Dakota at 70%. New Mexico has largely followed federal recommendations on vaccine rollout, and has been very effective with their coordination; how- ever, the other three states followed different routes. West Virginia and North and South Dakota’s plans have slightly differed, but there is one consistent theme: the cutting of red tape and a rejection of federal planning.
In each state, the elimination of bureaucratic processes and federal programs happened in different ways. West Virginia decided to opt out of the national program that partnered nursing homes with CVS and Walgreens, instead deciding to use the multitude of independent pharmacies in the state to vaccinate the elderly. North Dakota also followed in these footsteps and encouraged long-term care facilities to use other methods besides the CDC’s Long-Term Care Partnership. South Dakota increased the speed of their rollout by adding in other groups, such as law enforcement agents, to be eligible to receive the vaccine to the first few tiers, which included the elderly and frontline healthcare workers. While these
states are aided by the fact that they have smaller populations and are more tightly knit, other less-populated states have had issues with their rollouts. Both Rhode Island and Idaho, two states with populations similar to West Virginia and North and South Dakota, have struggled to administer 50% of the doses they have been distributed.
The success of West Virginia and the Dakotas and their methods of efficiently vaccinating their populations are an important lesson in policy-making. Governors and state legislators know their states much better than the federal government and can tailor policies that better fit their state, rather than an overbearing, cumbersome nationwide policy. A policy that works in Florida will not always work in Wyoming. It’s important to keep in mind that one size fits all policies coming from the federal government aren’t always the best idea.