January is the month of lofty resolutions and high-minded goals. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee got into the spirit Monday, unveiling a bold effort to speed up the state’s mass vaccination campaign after a disappointingly slow start.
Just how ambitious is Inslee’s plan to administer 45,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per day? That’s more than three times the daily number being administered right now: roughly 14,300.
Granted, it’s been barely a month since drug regulators approved a pair of near-miraculous vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, and barely a month since Washington front-line healthcare workers, first responders and seniors in congregate care settings received their first doses.
Supply lines are still ramping up. Delivery systems are being built from scratch in all 50 states. No doubt Washington’s inoculation rate will increase dramatically in the coming weeks, helping people forget our state’s mediocre performance in the initial vaccine rollout and inching us closer to the end of this pandemic.
Inslee took a good step Monday by expanding the pool of people immediately eligible for a vaccine; it now includes everyone over age 65, plus people 50 and older in multigenerational households.
He also announced a public-private partnership, enlisting companies like Starbucks and Microsoft to streamline vaccine-delivery logistics and data collection.
But 45,000 vaccinations a day? That’s an even more aggressive pace than what President-elect Joe Biden promised recently when he said he wants to see 100 million Americans get coronavirus shots in his first 100 days in office.
Inslee’s moonshot plan would put Washington at 4.5 million vaccinations in those 100 days — roughly double our share of Biden’s goal, based on state population.
There’s no harm in aiming high. Washingtonians should join the campaign with a willingness and determination to be vaccinated, tempered with patience if an appointment is canceled due to inevitable shortages in the pipeline.
People shouldn’t expect delivery to run as smoothly as Amazon Prime, Inslee cautioned.
One major factor is largely out of his hands: the supply of vaccine flowing into Washington. So far, we’re receiving around 100,000 doses a week, less than a third of what’s needed to meet the governor’s objective. Biden must use all tools at his disposal, including the Defense Production Act, to fortify states for the remaining war ahead.
Inslee used every inspirational trope in his playbook at Monday’s announcement, such as invoking the patriotism and shared sacrifice of World War II.
“We built the Liberty Ships here in Washington State,” he said. “We reached production levels that no one could imagine because we set ambitious goals.”
Indeed, the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver put Washington on the map as a round-the-clock industrial workhorse, cranking out dozens of ships between May 1942 and the end of the war.
Any undertaking on a massive scale comes with problems, of course, such as cracks in the hulls of some of those ships built 75 years ago. The important thing is to identify and acknowledge the problems, fix them and keep moving forward.
The same is true for state officials as they enter this next crucial phase of COVID-19 vaccination. Washington ranks in the bottom third of states in total doses administered so far — 3,186 per 100,000 residents, according to a federal COVID Data Tracker. Only five states west of the Mississippi River rank lower.
When a reporter asked about the state’s performance Monday, Inslee declined, saying he prefers to look ahead rather than “in the rearview mirror.” A health department official said the amount of vaccine that’s gone wasted is unknown.
Washingtonians are owed better explanations. Inslee’s criticism of the Trump administration’s uneven vaccine distribution is accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Make no mistake, we support the governor’s ambitious goal; as new year’s resolutions go, this one is worth every ounce of community effort required. But more accountability at the top would instill confidence that we can get most Washingtonians vaccinated, reach herd immunity and defeat this virus once and for all.