“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country. But you have my word: I will manage the hell out of this operation. But as I said last night, we need funding from Congress to make this happen.”
And off we go. The price tag on Joe “Uncle Junior” Biden’s national vaccine program is $20 billion, and includes deploying the National Guard and FEMA to help states distribute vaccines, sending mobile vaccination units to rural areas, and making vaccines available in pharmacies.
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey said, “In less than one year, Congress has spent $3.4 trillion on direct COVID relief aid and nearly doubled the entire federal budget. Blasting out another $2 trillion in borrowed or printed money—when the ink on December’s $1 trillion aid is barely dry and much of the money is not yet spent—would be a colossal waste and economically harmful.”
Toomey’s sentiment is well-taken, but it misses the point: The problem isn’t the way the vaccine has been distributed state by state; the problem, as Florida State Representative Randy Fine succinctly put it, is that “we need more vaccines from the vaccine manufacturers.” All the nation’s National Guard troops (not in Washington) and all the mobile vaccination units in the country will be worthless if there’s nothing to distribute.
State by state, local leaders are finding that the demand for the vaccine—despite Joe’s best efforts to scare people during the campaign—is dwarfing its supply. Trump’s genius in this process (a seemingly impossible feat just months ago) was in partnering the private and public sectors to incentivize drug companies to invent a vaccine. They’re still doing it. It’s a Trump triumph.
Biden’s challenge is going to be incentivizing the manufacturers of the drugs to step up supply so that those who want the vaccine can get it. This could involve tax incentives and/or subsidies to drug companies among other things, but it will have nothing to do with troops or vaccine vans.