President Biden is vowing to meet a goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccines in 100 days, and if anything that is too modest given the pace of production. One way to do better is to heed lessons in flexibility from the states with the most successful vaccine rollouts.
Some six weeks after the first shipments, the U.S. has administered some 53% of distributed vaccines. The gap continues to grow between states that are getting shots into arms, and those arguing over who gets what and when. North Dakota had administered some 84% of its supply as of Jan. 23, and West Virginia about 83%—far better than states like California (45%) or Alabama (47%). Federalism is showing what works—and what doesn’t.
The federal government’s main role is the production and distribution of vaccine doses, and the Biden Administration is fortunate to inherit Operation Warp Speed. Mr. Biden says he’ll trigger the Defense Production Act to expand vaccine production, albeit without details on how he’d build on the existing plan.
One step forward would be to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine on an emergency basis, as the U.K. did last month. It may not prove as effective as the mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna, but it would add to supply, is easier to transport, and would be a particularly good candidate for younger, healthy Americans.
The risk is that Team Biden tries to micromanage state administration of the vaccine, especially now that the media, Democrats and some public-health officials are blaming slow state rollouts on a “vacuum” of federal leadership. But vaccine administration was always intended to be state-led, and too many jurisdictions squandered the ample time they had for preparation.