Dr. Jennifer Cavalari, right, receives the first administered dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Houlton Regional Hospital. Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Cavalari

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

It is, of course, terrific news that the U.S. and other countries have so quickly developed vaccines against the coronavirus. Those vaccines are only helpful if people can get them.

The distribution of the vaccines across the U.S. has so far been much too slow and uncoordinated, much like the testing and public health messaging — wear a mask! — that were needed earlier this year to keep coronavirus cases low. As President Donald Trump continued to downplay the dangers of COVID-19 — even after he was infected himself — new cases of the virus have steadily risen. In the U.S., more than 21 million people have been infected and more than 358,000 have died, by far the highest numbers reported in the world.

As with coronavirus testing, the administration has left much of the work up to each state. This led to a mishmash of protocols and availability of tests and the laboratories needed to process them. As a result, how quickly those who fear they might have the illnesses can be tested and get their results depend, in part, on where they live.

Much the same is true of vaccinations. The administration had a goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. But the president has been much more focused on fallacious claims of voter fraud after losing the Nov. 3 election than on working to slow the deadly spread of coronavirus.

By year’s end, only 3 million doses of vaccine had been administered. Two doses of the vaccine are needed for full inoculation against COVID-19.

That number has since risen to 5 million doses, but still woefully short of the goal, as only 1.5 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated.

Maine has the fourth highest vaccination rate in the country with nearly 2.6 percent of the state’s population vaccinated, according to tracking by Bloomberg based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The state has already used half of the vaccines it has received, the sixth highest utilization in the country.

However, the state has consistently received fewer doses of vaccines than it has requested, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shah has said he does not know why states are getting less than requested.

The state is making its way through a first eligible group, which has included hospital health care workers and long-term care facility residents since December and expanded to outpatient clinics and independent practitioners this week.

The Maine CDC has a goal of vaccinating the next group — Mainers over the age of 75 and frontline essential workers — by February. To make a large dent in that group, Maine would need to receive and administer 50,000 doses a week, far more than the state is currently receiving. Early this week, the state had received 66,250 doses of vaccine in total.

The federal and state officials have traded accusations over who is to blame for the vaccination delays. Federal officials now say distribution of vaccines will speed up.

“We agree that that number is lower than what we hoped for,” Moncef Slaoui, scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop a vaccine, told The New York Times at the end of December. “We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday that the U.S. would soon be on track to give 1 million vaccinations a day. “Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.

He said that incoming President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office “a very realistic, important, achievable goal.”

Fauci cited the example of New York City vaccinating more than 6 million people against a smallpox outbreak in less than a month in 1947. One of those vaccinated was Fauci, who was then 6 years old.

If one city could vaccinate 6 million people that quickly — without the modern technology in use today — surely the U.S. can do a much better job of getting the coronavirus vaccine into the arms of Americans waiting for an inoculation against the rampant illness.

An administration with a coordinated plan to combat — and a commitment to help Americans get through — the coronavirus crisis should help.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...