It’s been three months since New York City critical care nurse Sandra Lindsey became the first American to receive the coronavirus vaccine outside a clinical trial. As Lindsey was jabbed in the arm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo watched a livestream of the long-awaited injection and exclaimed, “I believe this is the weapon that will end the war.” But the fierce battle against the pandemic wages on. Although more than 92 million Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the rollout has been uneven and slower than expected. The problem, according to Wharton professor Gad Allon, is a decentralized approach.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided recommendations to federal, state and local governments on who should be vaccinated first, but those jurisdictions have autonomy in creating distribution plans. The result is a fragmented system in which some states are far ahead of vaccinating their populations than other states. Georgia, Alabama and Utah are at the bottom of the list, while New Mexico, Alaska and Connecticut have administered doses to at least a quarter of their residents.
“If you want to try to see why some states are better than others, it’s one single word, and that’s centralization,” said Allon, who is a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions.
In an interview with the Wharton Business Daily Radio Show on SiriusXM, Allon contrasted the U.S. with Israel, which has inoculated more than half its population through a centralized approach that focuses on lowering barriers to make sure cold-storage doses don’t go to waste. Allon said U.S. states that are falling behind could create a single-point registry to streamline the process for residents and speed up vaccination efforts. (Listen to the podcast above.)
“Make sure people register. Make sure that you get to people at the time they need it, but also continuously try to think about, how do I avoid spoilage? Even if it means that it’s not equitable,” he said. “It seems that we prioritize convenience and being equitable to actually getting more people to get shots.”
Learn more: Gad Allon teaches in Wharton Executive Education’s live online program Designing and Managing the Agile Supply Chain for the Future.