Oliver Wiseman

Biden’s vaccine drive is too slow

I’m hooked on vaccine data. Barely an hour at my desk goes by without hitting refresh on a website telling me how many doses of Covid-19 vaccines have gone into arms around the world. A good day in either the US, where I live, or the UK, where I’m from, brings a frisson of excitement not dissimilar to what I imagine a gambling addict feels when his number hits. Slow progress sends me into a sulk. Either way, I need my fix.

The cause of my addiction is not complicated: I am fed up of this wretched pandemic. And the more aggressive the vaccination drive, the sooner it is over. Informing all of this is a mixture of impatience and optimism. Impatience because, well, this sucks. Optimism because the vaccines really do work, reducing transmission, practically eliminating serious illness and death, and allowing us to entertain the possibility of a normal life.

Maddeningly, the Biden administration and the public health establishment doesn’t seem nearly as impatient or optimistic as I am.

It would be nice to hear a bit more can-do spirit and, dare I say it, excitement

The White House’s approach to the vaccine appears to be driven first and foremost by expectation management. Better to underpromise than underdeliver is the plodding logic of a president who in his first weeks in office was still calling his initial one-million-vaccines-a-day target ‘ambitious’ after it had been met.

When Biden and his team do demonstrate urgency, it relates to the $1.9 trillion (£1.35 trillion) economic relief package Democrats are shepherding through Congress. But there’s a better way to alleviate the economic suffering caused by the pandemic than satisfying the party’s spending priorities. It’s ramping up vaccination speeds to bring the pandemic to a speedier end.

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