Every presidential inauguration is unique in some way, but last Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States, took uniqueness to a new level. It helped, of course, that it was a bright sunny day in Washington, despite the mid-winter date. Tradition was respected, and meshed with some exceptional events that made the idea of Inaugural Balls look old and faded. Security issues forced many of the changes, but they were carried out with such elegance and respect — a memorial to Covid-19 victims at the Reflecting Pool, three former presidents joining the new one at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to lay a wreath, the evening concert across America — that it was difficult to find anything to criticize. When the President and First Lady embraced on the White House porch, I half-expected him to carry her across the threshold into their new home!
President Biden has made defeating the pandemic the priority goal in his new administration. That’s a heavy lift, especially as we all found out, just a day or two before the inauguration, that federal reserves of coronavirus vaccine were gone. The promises of the previous administration, not surprisingly, were hollow. If there ever was a reserve of vaccine, the freezers now were bare, at the very time that many jurisdictions moved to Phase 1b, with the expectation that vaccine would be readily available.
All states rely on the federal government to distribute vaccine doses. The entire Commonwealth of Virginia currently receives about 100,000 new doses per week, but there are 8.5 million residents to vaccinate. Just do the math — at that rate, even working weekends, it would take almost three months, or to the end of April, to give the first dose of a two-dose regimen to all residents. That second shot is vitally important; without it, the vaccination is not effective, so those residents who are due their second shot have priority, according to an announcement from the Virginia Department of Health on Monday.
More than 100,000 Fairfax County residents, mostly over the age of 65, have registered for the vaccine, and many are fearful, and furious, that they can’t get an appointment, even for the first shot. While understandably frustrating, it must be reiterated that the Commonwealth does not make its own vaccine; production is the responsibility of the federal government, and more vaccine needs to be manufactured. As President Biden invokes the Defense Production Act, it still will take some time for factories to ramp up manufacture and delivery of the precious dosages for those who already are registered. Early estimates of late spring or early summer timelines to get the majority of residents inoculated seem to be right on target but, as the first anniversary of the pandemic shutdown approaches, patience appears to be in short supply, too. In the meantime, it is important to continue taking the same precautions that most have memorized by now — stay home when possible, wear a mask when outside your home, observe social distancing, and wash your hands frequently.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]