Of the myriad issues that newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden must address in the first few months of his time in the Oval Office, the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most pressing. Considering the recent revelations that the outgoing Trump administration did not take the time to devise a vaccine distribution plan, this issue has reached heightened levels of urgency.

Since the early days of the pandemic, when former President Trump was making outrageous claims like virus was “going to be down to close to zero,” over 24 million Americans have contracted the virus, and a staggering 400,000 Americans have died from complications relating to COVID-19.

 Last month’s news that not just one, but multiple, COVID-19 vaccines received FDA approval was met with widespread excitement. 

For months it felt like a vaccine was the only reasonable path towards the world returning to how things were before the pandemic (if such a thing is even possible). Many people were counting on the safe and speedy distribution of these vaccines. It is no wonder that governmental failure to fairly and equally distribute vaccines has led to public backlash

The Problem with “Operation Warp Speed”

The public disappointment with the distribution of the vaccine can, in part, be attributed to the lofty goals the Trump administration promised to meet before the end of his term. They pledged to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year, a goal that has not currently been met. As of now, an estimated 16 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine

The rollout has faced several setbacks. In January, a shipment of 103,400 doses of the vaccine was delayed, resulting in the postponement of vaccination for 23,000 people. 

The problems related to the vaccines distribution can be traced back to the government’s initial distribution plan, titled “Operation Warp Speed.” At the outset of the operation, distribution was not a primary concern, efforts were focussed on the creation of a successful vaccine. 

As a result, the distribution plan fell to the military leaders involved in Operation Warp Speed, who centered their plan around complicated military technology. The distribution uses the Pentagon’s Tiberius system, a platform that allows states to submit orders for the amount of vaccines they need.

Equity Issues in Vaccine Distribution

Vaccine distribution continues to face equity issues. Statistics indicate a racial disparity in those who are being vaccinated. 12% of Black Philadelphians have received the vaccine, even though the city is 44% Black.

Of the 300,000 residents of New York City to have been vaccinated with at least one dose, 48% are white, 15% Asian, 15% Latino, and 11% Black. Mayor Bill De Blasio decried the lack of equitable distribution, calling the racial disparity in vaccine distribution “profound.” 

To combat this issue, the Mayor says New York City is planning on increasing outreach in 33 of the hardest hit areas of the city. 

Biden’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

With Joe Biden now sworn in as President, there is some hope that the tide will begin to turn for vaccine distribution. Biden’s goal to provide 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office is one that many within his administration have begun to doubt.

Despite what may be an overly ambitious stated goal, other parts of Biden’s plan are much more reasonable. The administration intends to create mass vaccination sites, invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the production of syringes, glass vials, and other necessary equipment. 

Whether or not the Biden administration is any better at distributing the vaccine than the Trump administration is yet to be seen. A lot of factors will likely complicate wide-spread vaccine distribution. However, considering how the country fared under Trump, it is likely that we can only go upwards from here.