When it comes to administering COVID-19 vaccinations to the people most in need of immunization, hospitals and health systems across the U.S. are botching the operation.
Martin Makary, MD, MPH, doesn’t mince words fleshing out the particulars of the opinion. Writing for MedPage Today, the online outlet of which he is editor-in-chief, the Johns Hopkins professor of surgery and health policy accuses many hospitals of cronyism, selfishness and blame-shifting, mainly to local officials.
At the core of his consternation is what he’s seen and heard about hospital leadership prioritizing non-patient-facing staff—including young, healthy medical students and even employees who work from home—over vulnerable elderly members of their respective communities.
Makary understands how this scenario has developed to this point but doesn’t accept it as inevitable going forward.
“In fairness to hospitals, they should not have been in this predicament where they are a primary site for community vaccinations,” writes Makary, who last week exhorted healthy healthcare workers to sacrifice on COVID immunization for vulnerable neighbors. “Local pharmacies, grocery stores and dialysis centers have extensive experience administering vaccines each year and should have received more vaccine supply.”
In fact, from his vantage point, the most troubling aspect of the stumble at hand has been America’s failure to expedite vaccination distribution to, specifically, dialysis centers.
“Kidney disease is the No. 1 most common risk factor for COVID-19 death,” Makary points out. “Every year, U.S. dialysis centers give kidney patients the flu vaccine early and efficiently. They have a great system in place. Yet the nation’s vaccine plan did not ship the vaccine to any of the nation’s 7,500 dialysis centers or even include them in the distribution planning discussions.”
That doesn’t mean hospital leaders are off his hook.
Vaccine surpluses are “sitting on the shelf at U.S. hospitals right now as thousands of Americans die each day,” he writes. “Let’s stop arguing and be pragmatic. Hospitals should show leadership and give the vaccine surplus to local seniors—a simple strategy that maximizes the number of lives saved.”