My parents are fortunate. The over-55 community where they live in South Florida is working with the county to arrange for COVID-19 vaccinations to take place onsite. I do not know if it was a proactive move by the county’s department of health or of the community itself, but judging by its website, Palm Beach County DPH is being overwhelmed by those over 65.
The federal government saw its obligation as limited to getting the vaccines to the states and then it was up to the states to figure out the logistics. From what I’ve seen, some states like Florida and Georgia, just continued to pass the buck. In Georgia, the DPH for Cobb and Douglas counties notified that people over 65 will only be vaccinated after January 11 and they have to check back on the site in order to see when scheduling goes live. Dekalb County’s DPH, on the other hand, takes up real estate on its page talking about how the virus is Chinese and doesn’t address over 65s at all. Currently, only healthcare providers who do not work for those administering the vaccine can opt in to schedule a vaccine.
Just as this inconsistent piecemeal approach to rolling out vaccinations is inherently flawed, the whole idea of someone needing to seek information and proactively sign up – especially older population – is even worse.
What the federal government could have done is develop a blueprint for how states should roll out the vaccine, and ask those that choose to carry out differently to submit their plans – because shared knowledge creates space for improvements for everyone. (My day job is in knowledge management and I look at everything through a lens of “Why the hell are people making things up instead of researching and pooling ideas?”)
At any rate, I then decided to look at New York’s Nassau County’s DPH’s site. This is where I grew up and so I like to compare how the two states or the counties I’ve lived in carry out different aspects of public life. In this case, I saw that while Nassau has not yet offered the vaccine to older residents, it asks eligible residents to register through a statewide system. (Unfortunately, I did not see the actual link tot that system on the page.) It took some time, but I found New York had created a new COVID vaccine site and on it , it was noted that the vaccine will be free. It spells out their whole plan – but didn’t offer a clearly defined registration link. I did find a Vaccine Form for eligible residents to complete, but it speaks nothing of scheduling or how people will be contacted, let alone when older citizens will be allowed to start registering. So while New York is more centralized, it still is a DIY scenario that residents may not be able to navigate, let alone find.
In the past I’ve looked at how Georgia and New York define school districts and set up budgeting – and it is very different. School districts in Georgia are countywide, with the exception of defined cities, which have their own. In New York, they are smaller. This impacts how budgets, boards, and other policies are carried out.
For a research paper this past semester, I compared how the city of Philadelphia handles recruitment and hiring (not well, by the way; if you are interested in my paper, let me know). And then I looked at New York, and again, saw a statewide system where the state offers support to local governments. Brilliant. Similarly, in a discussion about why Georgia high schools do not all offer vocational training, I thought about New York’s BOCES system, and checked out its site. I had remembered it for trade courses as well as for a school it had for the intellectually disabled. I see now how it offers all kinds of centralized help to school districts across the state, pointing again to an understanding that not reinventing wheels and duplicating services is a more efficient way to go.
The CDC has a Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker, but according to someone from a COVID-19 tracking site, too few states are reporting relevant data. The CDC has outlined it data reporting collaboration system. Though criticized by Trump for exaggerating number of cases, the CDC is more likely underreporting. If the quality of their data is dependent upon the states, then the fact that each state and perhaps even each county in some states are independently expected to figure things out, whether dealing with the virus or vaccinations, means that data may not always be reliable.
So we’ve got uncoordinated, poorly communicated, opt in, unstandardized policies in multiple areas of public life. This is scary. President-elect Biden’s COVID website addresses some of these issues; I truly hope all players will step up and work together to make the logistics happen. I’d like to be reassured that everyone, not only those in my parents’ over-55 community are being taken care of.