There's a meme floating about on TikTok that captures one of the largest truths of today.

In the short video, a man labeled as "government" is saying, "You should really get a Covid vaccine, it's safe and you really need to get the shot."

A second man labeled as "citizens" responds, "Ok, I will, but where can I go to get the shot?"

The "government" man responds, "Well, I can't tell you that, but you really, really need to get that shot."

Such is the state of our country today. Government leaders are encouraging people to get vaccinated, but nobody in government has a fracking clue of where to tell people to go, or even how to make an appointment. 

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Maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. The nation's initial response to the virus last winter was tepid and dumb.

President Trump downplayed the virus, then said it would go away on its own, then contradicted all the health experts' advice with his own flaky remedies. (Drink bleach?? Stupid.)

The federal government did put a lot of money into getting a vaccine developed quickly, but it didn't do too much planning on exactly how to get the vaccine into the arms of American citizens.

As the November elections became a political storm, Washington lost all focus and interest in the distribution of the vaccine just as it was becoming available in December.

The result was that the feds said they would send the vaccine to states, but it was up to every state to figure out how to distribute it. 

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Meanwhile, the state dithered and dwaddled in the months leading up to the vaccine distribution. Little extra money and few extra people were hired in local health departments to actually jab shots into arms. No statewide website for registering to get the vaccine was created and every health district was left on its own to figure out what to do.

Most local health departments were already stretched thin doing their regular work and administering Covid testing to the public. They had no extra resources to answer the calls about scheduling vaccine appointments, or to actually have people give the shots.

Then, as if that weren't enough problems, the state suddenly expanded its first pool of those eligible to get the vaccine to everyone over the age of 65.

That blew up what little infrastructure had been put in place. Websites locked up. Appointment times vanished overnight. A deluge of phone calls flooded local health offices.

The mess became bigger.

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Of course, health departments aren't the only agencies that are giving vaccine shots. Large hospitals are administering it to their frontline healthcare workers. Pharmacists from Walgreens and CVS were enlisted to give the shots to long-term care facility residents and staff. And some pharmacies requested the vaccine to administer in their stores.

The problem with that is, however, is that nobody seems to know who's got what and where.

There's not a central website clearing house or appointment system.

There's no coordination of how to administer the shots out in the field.

And there's not much communication from the state to citizens about how to get the vaccine.

The result has been a mad scramble as those over age 65 make call after call to try and get on a list, somewhere, somehow, if they can get through.

Hell, last week a bunch of young day-traders got online and slapped Wall Street around by artificially boosting the stock value of GameStop; but our own government can't tell grandma where to get a life-saving vaccine or how to sign up?

Maybe the state should hire a group of teen hackers and nerds to figure it out.

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Adding to all the problems is an apparent morass of bureaucracy within the state's health department system.

Turns out that local EMTs and firefighters who are trained to give shots can't give the vaccine to patients without special state-mandated training.

We're in  the middle of a pandemic, we need all medical hands-on-deck, but state rules want to throw up unreasonable roadblocks?

Am I crazy to think that's nuts?

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Maybe I'm being too harsh.

This is a new pandemic and the vaccine has just become available. Supplies are limited even if there was a system in place to give out the shots.

Perhaps with a little more time, both the supply and distribution will gear up and we can begin to see the kind of mass vaccinations we need to protect lives.

But everyone has known for months that a vaccine was in the works and would be available at some point.

So why didn't the state gear up months ago for that day?

Why didn't more funds get pumped into the state's health system to hire more staffing, do more training and put into place the distribution infrastructure needed to jab arms?

Why wasn't a central clearinghouse website crated for the state that is robust and that the public could use to sign up for a vaccine at any local location, public or private? 

Why are we just now gearing up so slowly, as if the vaccine could wait?

It can't wait. People are dying. Look at this newspaper's obituary pages. Look at the data; over 12,000 Georgians have died so far.

How many more will it take before some ass-kicking gets done and a competent distribution system gets put into place?

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Maybe all is not lost.

Locally, board of commissioners chairman Tom Crow has been pushing the state health department to do more in Jackson County (see story in this week's issue HERE.) 

And Jackson County EMS director Bryan Bullock told me this week that he's working to get his EMTs trained quickly to help out.

"The training itself doesn’t take long," he said. "We are coordinating with our local health department to provide the training to our staff. A lot of our local fire departments have EMT's and Paramedics that work full-time for other fire/ems agencies. We have reached out to them in an effort to get more vaccinators. President Biden signed an executive order on January 21 that allows the county to be reimbursed for any expenses we may incur related to vaccine distribution."

So there are some good things happening. Some people care and are trying to untangle the mess they have been handed.

But it didn't have to be this way. More and better planning should have been done weeks — months — ago by the federal and state governments.

When my time comes, I want to get that vaccine.

I should be able to do that without having to play Where's Waldo with the state health system.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

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(2) comments

Vanessa Phillips

It is distressing to me that we now have 10% infection rate in Jackson County and I hope everyone will Please consider wearing a mask in Public. I am hopeful that everyone will notice the competency in our New Administration and in turn actions by them will force our state leadership to get on board. I thank our local leaders who are trying. Meanwhile I stay at home.

Edward Nachman

https://publichealthathens.com/wp/programs/infectious-disease/coronavirus-covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination/

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