On why the processes and policies to distribute coronavirus vaccines must be improved and everything should be done to get them into people’s arms to prevent their waste and save lives.

First published in January 2021.

I just spoke with a close colleague. I thought I would share his story. (I have changed minor details to protect him.)

He is an ER Doctor, working in a hot spot in the United States.

A few days ago, early evening, a vaccine team showed up with a bunch of extra doses of Moderna vaccine. They were looking for unvaccinated hospital employees.

Most employees there had already been vaccinated. The rest were unwilling to be vaccinated.

They found several EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and patients who were excited to be vaccinated.

But hospital policy was clear: non-employees are not eligible.

My friend, an ER Doctor, incensed, intervened. He tried to persuade the vaccine team but they wouldn’t override hospital policy.

He called the ER leadership. They wouldn’t override either.

Next, he called the hospital leadership. They initially said no, claiming state mandate.


My friend is persuasive and persistent... so, they eventually relented. But by then, the vaccinators had left.

He tracked them down. Their shift was over and, per protocol, they had discarded the doses.

I am hearing more and more stories like this. I have no idea if these are one-offs or systemic.

Unfortunately, we aren’t publicly reporting detailed data on the state of vaccinations.

Frustrating story, but what are the lessons?

  1. Hospitals need to use their extra doses to vaccinate people in their communities;
  2. Policies that bar non-employee vaccinations are bad and should be repealed;
  3. We need to collect and report more data on how vaccinations are going.🔷

Dr Ashish K. Jha, Physician, health policy researcher. Dean of the School of Public Health, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown University, Rhode Island.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 11 January 2021 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

Creative Commons License
(Cover: Pexels. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)