This week, Louisiana's governor announced that 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine would be available at 107 pharmacies around the state to persons 70 years and older. More than 600,000 were eligible.
Most pharmacies reported running out of vaccine on the first day, some in an hour or less. “I’ve never seen demand like this for anything,” said one pharmacist, who stopped his list at 500 despite having only 100 doses
No one knows when the next round will be available. Information about vaccine allocations is dribbling out weekly.
The vaccination program bids fair to become the biggest government cock-up since the 2013 rollout of Obamacare and a textbook case of the worst offense in marketing: Creating demand that you aren’t prepared to meet.
Remember the much-ballyhooed, built-from-the-ground-up, no-haggle Saturn automobile? General Motors, with the help of Hal Riney & Partners, created a story for Saturn’s introduction that couldn’t be beat. The only problem was that it took more than six years to bring the Saturn to market.
According to Wharton management professor John Paul MacDuffie, “... there was some ground lost right there,” as GM raised such high expectations for the company and the car, and then took so long to deliver. When the delays were made public, GM attributed them to its effort to get everything right.
So we have this absolute genius vaccine development effort in record time, but at this writing, only 15 million people have gotten “the jab.” As one public health expert put it “we had a wonderful vaccine program, but no vaccination program.”
If the vaccine were a free app, there would be tens of thousands available at thousands of locations. Why can’t we do at least a fraction of that with a life-saving vaccine?
The 45th president, of course, takes no interest at all, because there’s nothing in the task of getting vaccines into arms that he can use politically. All of his energies are being poured into trying to overturn the election, punish his enemies, reward his friends with pardons or appointments, and generally pour fresh concrete into the engine and gears of government and the political party he hijacked in 2016.
Fingers are pointing in every direction, but everything points to lack of a national rollout plan that included a robust communication program about vaccine availability, vaccination locations, special restrictions or requirements, and progress toward the goal of vaccinating 70-80 percent of the population. This is left largely to the states, and many of them aren’t up to it. I wish that some institution like Johns Hopkins would take that on with government funding, as a follow-on to its excellent Coronavirus Resource Center.
Bill Huey is founder and president of Strategic Communications, a corporate and marketing communication consultancy. He is the author of two novels and a new one-act play dealing with the #Me Too Movement, “The Tiger of the Flesh.”