Vaccine Queen – WSJ
It’s maddening to watch politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) delay needed Covid vaccinations with needless bureaucracy. For any citizens crying out that there has to be a better way, the good news is that a number of states have been moving quickly to get shots into arms. Recently this column noted the speed of vaccinations in West Virginia. Fortunately the Mountain State is not the only success story.
“South Dakota among leaders in COVID-19 inoculations,” notes a headline in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. It seems that state leaders didn’t believe the media consensus that a rapid vaccine approval couldn’t happen. They were prepared for the possibility of success. The Argus Leader reports:
It was August when health officials from across the state decided it was time to start planning.Though still weeks away, the chatter in the medical world was promising: A new type of vaccine known as a Messenger RNA vaccine was showing huge promise in the world’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines were being developed in record time and would be available in several weeks.The state’s medical community wanted to be ready. ”We put a lot of thought and planning into this,” said Dr. David Basel, the vice president of clinical quality for Avera Medical Group.
The planning paid off. At a time when some states are stumbling to enact vaccination plans, South Dakota came out of the gate hard, following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for two mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. At one point this week, more South Dakotans had received vaccinations as a percentage of the population than in any other state, according to tracking done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Dakota seems to rely heavily on private management and decision-making on the ground:
Besides planning, there has also been an unusual level of cooperation among health systems that are natural competitors. As part of the plan, the state was divvied up among five vaccine providers: The big three health systems, Avera, Monument and Sanford, as well as Mobridge Hospital and the Northern Plains Health Network. The providers agreed to take counties in which they didn’t have a presence, something Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she appreciated.
Instead of a new government-designed plan for distribution, Gov. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) has largely relied on existing methods for delivering care. The Argus Leader reports:
The health systems already had established courier services for delivering medicines from their main hospitals to smaller facilities. Vaccines could piggyback along within that system.
That’s different than how other states have handled the roll-out, Basel said. For example, in Minnesota, vaccines aren’t going directly from the state to hospitals, but through a more complex distribution system that involves more layers. The system for distribution in South Dakota is “orders of magnitude less complicated.”
“We’re able to cut through the red tape and just do it,” Basel said.