Inconsistent supply is biggest challenge to Covid vaccine rollout, says NJ hospital CEO

Health, Fitness & Food

Holy Name Medical Center CEO Michael Maron told CNBC on Tuesday his New Jersey hospital’s Covid vaccination efforts have been hindered by a consistent problem: inconsistent availability.

“The biggest challenge we face right now here is supply of the vaccine. We just can’t get it, and we can’t get it on any reliable path. It’s very difficult,” Maron said on “Power Lunch.”

“One week we’ll have Pfizer, the next week we’ll have Moderna,” he added, referring to the makers of the two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “We never quite know how much of that is coming, whether it’s a thousand doses … or two thousand or more.”

So far, Maron said Holy Name Medical Center — located in Teaneck, near New York City — has administered about 5,000 vaccine doses. However, Maron said the hospital has the capacity to administer 3,000 doses per day, due in part to a partnership it established with Teaneck to create a vaccination site at a community center.

On Monday, 570 residents were given the vaccine at the site, according to a post on Teaneck’s official website. But due to the “lack of available vaccine,” Township Manager Dean Kazinci wrote, the site is closed Tuesday — illustrating the supply challenges Maron spoke of.

“Holy Name Medical Center is awaiting delivery of additional trays of the vaccine which should arrive mid week. We will release additional information when it becomes available,” Kazinci wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Holy Name’s website also tells visitors the hospital is not scheduling Covid vaccination appointments “at the present time” due to availability constraints.

The rollout of Covid vaccines in the U.S. has proceeded at a pace slower than officials had hoped. About 12.3 million doses have been administered as of Friday, according to the latest available data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 31.2 million doses distributed.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn into office Wednesday, has vowed to accelerate the vaccine rollout with a pledge to administer 100 million doses in 100 days. On Sunday, Biden’s pick to run the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said she believed the U.S. would have adequate vaccine supply to accomplish the goal.

“It will be a hefty lift, but we have enough to do that,” Walensky said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Covid hospitalizations

While Covid vaccinations are critical in limiting the impact of the disease, Maron cautioned that the U.S. coronavirus outbreak is a present threat. On Tuesday, the country’s death toll from Covid eclipsed 400,000, a little more than a month after it recorded 300,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Maron said Covid hospitalizations at Holy Name Medical Center are not at levels seen earlier in the pandemic, such as in March and April. The hospital also has better treatments for patients now, he said. Nonetheless, he said one worrisome aspect has been the age of patients who are hospitalized with the disease.

“It is not who you would think,” Maron said. “It is mostly people between 45 and 65, so these are not the frail elderly that everybody talked about. Those are the ones who are on the ventilators, so that has us somewhat concerned.”

He said it’s not clear what is causing the hospitalizations among younger U.S. residents. “For us here in the industry, it’s a reminder that this is still a very, very serious and deadly virus. We should not take it lightly.”

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