Republicans aren’t very good at numbers

We’ve got this vaccine, right? The only problem is getting it to the people. In order to reach that desired state of herd immunity by this summer, a promise the Trump administration has been dangling in front of us, we need to get 3.5 million people vaccinated per day. This isn’t happening. Just the fact that a nurse getting the shot is front page photo op material ought to tell you that. But look at the actual numbers — they’re pathetic. This is a massive job that will require a massive investment in medical infrastructure, and the Republicans can’t do it.

There’s reason to believe the administration won’t be able to ramp up vaccination rates anywhere close to those levels. Yes, as vaccine production increases, more will be available to the states. And Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at HHS, argued on Sunday that the 2.1 million administered vaccines figure was an underestimate due to delayed reporting. So let’s be generous and say the administration actually administered 4 million doses over the first two weeks.

But even that would still fall far short of the 3.5 million vaccinations needed per day. In fact, it falls far short of what the administration had promised to accomplish by the end of 2020 — enough doses for 20 million people. And remember, the first group of vaccinations was supposed to be the easiest: It’s hospitals and nursing homes inoculating their own workers and residents. If we can’t get this right, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the country.

Here’s what concerns me most: Instead of identifying barriers to meeting the goal, officials are backtracking on their promises. When states learned they would receive fewer doses than they had been told, the administration said its end-of-year goal was not for vaccinations but vaccine distribution. It also halved the number of doses that would be available to people, from 40 million to 20 million. (Perhaps they hoped no one would notice that their initial pledge was to vaccinate 20 million people, which is 40 million doses, or that President Trump had at one point vowed to have 100 million doses by the end of the year.) And there’s more fancy wordplay that’s cause for concern: Instead of vaccine distribution, the administration promises “allocation” in December. Actual delivery for millions of doses wouldn’t take place until January, to say nothing of the logistics of vaccine administration.

The vaccine rollout is giving me flashbacks to the administration’s testing debacle. Think back to all the times Trump pledged that “everyone who wants a test can get one.” Every time this was fact-checked, it came up false. Instead of admitting that there wasn’t enough testing, administration officials followed a playbook to confuse and obfuscate: They first attempted to play up the number of tests done. Just like 2 million vaccines in two weeks, 1 million tests a week looked good on paper — until they were compared to the 30 million a day that some experts say are needed. The administration then tried to justify why more tests weren’t needed. Remember Trump saying that “tests create cases” or the CDC issuing nonsensical testing guidance?

Contrast that with what Germany is doing.

German states plan to set up hundreds of vaccination centers across the country starting in December, the newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.

It said the health ministers of the 16 federal states have drawn up plans to create one to two centers per administrative district — totaling hundreds of centers — as well as employing mobile vaccination teams.

The capital, Berlin, alone is allegedly planning to set up six such centers, Welt am Sonntag said.

Germany realizes that delivering all those doses is a gigantic logistical problem, and is preparing the pipeline. It’s all well and good to have a source for the life-giving vaccine, but if you don’t have a mechanism for delivery, it’s just going to sit in pharmaceutical company warehouses. Or it’s going to dribble out haphazardly to rich greedy people, like some of our members of Congress, before it is delivered efficiently.

I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to take to get through to the hordes of anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers out there, who have found validation in the words and actions of Trump.

Heckuva job, Donny. Worst disaster in American history since the 1918 flu epidemic, and you flopped badly at coping with it. You made it worse.


  1. kome says

    I disagree with the framing that the Republicans can’t do it. They just refuse to do it. It’s a problem whose solution only helps others, not them. So, they just refuse to exert the tiniest effort in solving the problem before them. Republicans have, in the past, shown to be efficient and effective and tenacious at solving problems where the solution gets them more money, more power, or more control over others. They are competent and capable individuals who merely refuse to apply any of it to helping others. They have proven time and again that they are malicious, not stupid.

  2. raven says

    The estimate I saw yesterday is that the US is vaccinating 200,000 people a day.
    This means we will reach the target level of vaccination in around…ten years.
    We don’t have ten years. By then, our economy will be trashed and millions of Americans will be dead.

    Of course the Trump maladministration has failed to get the vaccine out.
    They have so far failed at everything to do with fighting the pandemic and never put the infrastructure in place to do so.
    What they did was kick the responsibility down to the states, which don’t have the expertise or money to do all that much anyway.

    The states right now need money for pandemic financial relief for their affected populations such as unemployed service workers, and money for pandemic medical procedures. Such as running mass vaccinations.
    The Federal government has refused to allocate any tax money to the states for any of this.

  3. specialffrog says

    @kome: I’m not sure “can’t” is incorrect at this stage. Like the UK Tories the party has been anti-expert for some time.

  4. says

    FWIW I didn’t think we’d see any vaccine at all this early. I didn’t know my expectations could ever be this low but DJT did it. I’m not sure he could have screwed up more if he tried.

  5. PaulBC says

    No, they’ve never been “good with numbers” and there’s a reason for that. They would like to make assertions about reality that is consistent with their ideology: “Tax cuts for the rich ‘trickle down’ to everyone.” “Rising sea levels are caused by rocks falling in the water.” “The sun cannot possibly provide enough energy for our economy.” “The earth’s environment [powered by sunlight largely] is far too vast to be affected by something as small as economic activity.”

    Or in this case: the virus is a hoax, and it’s also a Chinese bioweapon. The people you say are dying are really dying for some other reason. Those awful Chinese, killing us like this! (And if you can follow that line of reasoning, you should consider running for congress as a Republican.)

    A simple numerical check will almost always demonstrate the falsity of Republican claims. Thus it is not merely “too hard” to work through the numbers, but a despicable act of disloyalty.

  6. microraptor says

    Republicans never want to spend money on a project that could save lives when they could instead spend money on military projects to kill people instead.

  7. blf says

    @7, A very recent example, US approves sale of $290m in bombs to Saudi Arabia:

    The US state department has approved the sale of $290m in bombs to Saudi Arabia as part of a flurry of arms deals with Middle Eastern dictatorships in the last weeks of the Trump administration.

    Critics of the sales say they are being rushed through despite broad congressional and public opposition to such military support because of the human rights records of the regimes involved and in the case of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the huge civilian death toll from the war in Yemen.


  8. blf says

    Here in France the roll-out has been dreadful — only c.100 people in 3 days — France criticised for slow start to Covid-19 vaccinations. As the article alludes to, France has perhaps the highest level of vaccine hesitancy in the so-called developed world, with a recent survey claiming only c.40% said they would get the vaccine ! How that results in the poor rollout is a mystery; more noticeable is I haven’t see any&nbps;— none at all† — basic information, high-profile vaccinations, debunking anti-vaxxers (except by NGOs), etc, etc. From the article:

    France’s strategy “is not suited to a situation that is so dangerous,” Axel Kahn, a prominent geneticist who leads the National League against Cancer told Europe 1 radio.

    Kahn said the government should seek to persuade people who are hesitating to be inoculated with “transparency and enthusiasm”.

    “We need to protect the French people and those who are vulnerable.”


    Philippe Juvin, emergency services chief at Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris, said that there appeared to be no national “vaccine strategy” in France.

    “As an individual, I would like to be vaccinated, to set an example, and show people that we don’t die from the vaccine, we die from Covid. And when we don’t die, we get severe forms which are very disabling,” he told CNews TV channel.


    Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the more measured pace in France, saying that officials were taking time to win people over to the idea of being vaccinated.

    “It takes a little more time to get going,” he said, adding he expected to catch up on the rest of the world by the end of January.


      † Caveat: I don’t follow the French-language media as closely as I do the English-language media, so I could be (and this has happened in the past) “blissfully unawares” of any French-language(-mostly) campaigns.

  9. Rich Woods says

    In order to reach that desired state of herd immunity by this summer, a promise the Trump administration has been dangling in front of us, we need to get 3.5 million people vaccinated per day.

    Don’t worry. The invisible hand of the free market will provide.

  10. mnb0 says

    Ha, just take a look at this picture.

    That orange country at the left? Yup, my native country. It will start 8 january (and 18 january on a serious level, according to planning).
    Reaction of the Dutch government: “critics don’t know the meaning of the words accurate and careful”.
    In the meantime the death rate due to COVID per million inhabitants is about 3/4 of the USA.

  11. blf says

    @10, “The invisible hand of the free market will provide.” It will be “interesting” to see how that works out, as Biden has promised Covid-19 vaccinations will be free, Biden pledges free Covid vaccine for ‘everyone’ in US if elected (October 2020).

    I speculate if moscowmitch and teh thugs are still in control of the Senate, that won’t happen. (Please note, Putin-influenced trolls, that is all I am speculating about.)

  12. lumipuna says

    Several moths ago, I had this gloomy suspicion that if Trump loses the election (and probably even if he wins), his administration will suddenly somehow drop all support for the vaccine development program, slowing down the whole process with neglect, if not outright petty sabotage. Then, when Biden takes office (if not earlier), Republicans will suddenly collectively find that vaccine skepticism is the perfect new cultural war issue for 2021, since the base has been already taught to largely see covid as a leftist hoax.

    As it turned out, global vaccine development as a whole has been actually quite independent of US government support, and also produced results earlier than was generally expected. OTOH, it turns out that vaccine distribution can be actually more of a bottleneck than vaccine production, and Trump administration still has a couple months to sabotage that effort since the preparations should have started. And lo, the sabotage is indeed happening, by neglect and incompetence almost indistinguishable from malice.

    Meanwhile, Trump practically never even pretends to care about the pandemic anymore. Republicans only ever wanted to save the economy, and mostly expected it’d necessarily require some compromise in the saving people department. Or rather, they just wanted to give the impression at the time of the election that everything would be back to normal very very soon. A well-timed early rollout of a vaccine, effective and safe or not, would’ve been great for that purpose.

    But now that the election is lost, Trump and others shift toward sabotaging Biden’s economy, while still stoking cultural division by any means. I heard Tucker Carlson has already begun regular antivaxx messaging. For them, making the pandemic worse is both a tool for and a meaningless side effect of destroying the country and blaming it on Democratic administration.

  13. raven says

    I heard Tucker Carlson has already begun regular antivaxx messaging.

    Not surprising.
    I’m not too concerned by the anti-vaxxers in this case.

    .1 Polls show maybe 40% of the US population doesn’t plan to get the vaccine.
    I’m sure that number will drop when they see the sick and dying people all around them, while the people who get vaccinated don’t have that to worry about that any more. Reports are this is already happening.

    .2. That 40% who won’t get vaccinated, will get vaccinated anyway.
    The hard way.
    This virus is very contagious, it is diffuse meaning everywhere, and there may even be more contagious variants arising such as the one from the UK.
    Sooner or later, and probably sooner, they will come down with Covid-19. Everyone will get it.
    So they get the advantage of being vaccinated without the advantage of…not getting sick from a pathogenic virus.

    .3. People who really care about their health and their communities will get the vaccines faster than the people who trust Fox NoNews and decide not too.

  14. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    I’m answering phones for the State of Oregon’s covid emergency line, and most of our vaccine calls are of the “how can I get one” variety, or “how can I arrange this for my mother/grandma/staff”. I’ve had a few callers concerned about it being mandatory (something the state is not planning) and just one Rashid Buttar follower who was concerned about the ingredients, particularly luciferase. Which doesn’t appear in the approved version of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. So if you want your shot to make you glow in the dark, the covid vaccine won’t do it for you.

  15. blf says

    Numenaster@15, Thank you for your work !

    So if you want your shot to make you glow in the dark, the covid vaccine won’t do it for you — Yeah, yeah, but combine it with all the other vaccines, add a large newt’s eye of magical “thinking”, ignorance orand obtuseness, plus numerous toadTrump’s eyeballs, and you can than drink bleach ! Gotta be safer and more effective than some evilutionist-“FAKE science” potion made by migrant foreigners from the still-warm corpses of babies !

  16. says

    In order to reach that desired state of herd immunity by this summer, a promise the Trump administration has been dangling in front of us, we need to get 3.5 million people vaccinated per day.

    Wait, what? “Informal summer” doesn’t start until June 1, just over 150 days away. Astronomical summer doesn’t start for over 170 days.

    Even with the lower number (150 days), 1.6 million people per day = 240million vaccinated, which is definitely in the range of herd immunity for a country of 320m.

    It looks like that 3.5m/day figure is about double what’s actually required.

    Now, of course I’d like to see 10m vaccinated per day & end this thing by February 1st, so I’m not saying I want us to slow down. I’m just saying 3.5m/day isn’t the required number IF your goal is Jun 1st.

  17. erie says

    These vaccines require two doses to immunise people. That’s why 3.5 million injections are required per day: everyone needs two injections, several weeks apart.

  18. says


    Ah, now THAT makes more sense. I had thought it was about double what was needed, and now I understand why. It was this phrasing from our host:

    we need to get 3.5 million people vaccinated per day.

    If it had been phrased “need to get 3.5 million injections” I might have remembered this is a two-part vaccine. But I just assumed we were talking about completed vaccinations, not injections or partial vaccinations b/c of the wording.

    My bad! Thanks much!

  19. DrVanNostrand says

    What?! The party that told us tax cuts pay for themselves can’t do simple math? I don’t believe it!

  20. says

    Germany realizes that delivering all those doses is a gigantic logistical problem, and is preparing the pipeline

    You know it’s bad when the total clusterfuck happening here in Germany is seen as a shining example.
    We may have those centres, but their maximum capacity is way too small and also there isn’t enough vaccine. They’re expecting 360.000 doses a week for the next weeks, which means it will take almost three months to vaccinate just priority group 1!
    By now I consider everybody who tweets “I got my first shot” a complete asshole. They’re tweeting to a group who is already c convinced that they should get the vaccine and it’s just a giant middle finger to all the people who want to get vaccinated, who work in high risk environments, and will have to wait for months.

  21. gijoel says

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Americans that it’s okay to die so that rich will remain wealthy.

  22. raven says

    Almost on topic.
    In Wisconsin, an employee of a medical center, deliberately destroyed 500 doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
    Supposedly no motive is known yet.
    It’s likely they are anti-vaxxers though.

    Pandemics like this can bring out the best of people such as when health care workers put their lives on the line to treat Covid-19 patients and often end up dead themselves.
    It also brings out the worst of people, when armed thugs protest mask mandates like it is one step away from a prison reeducation camp. Or some wacko tries to sabotage a vaccine program.

    Police investigate deliberate spoiling of 500 vaccine doses
    Associated Press DECEMBER 31, 2020 — 8:25AM

    GRAFTON, Wis. — Police and federal authorities are investigating after a Wisconsin health system said an employee admitted to deliberately spoiling 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine.

    Aurora Medical Center first reported that the doses has been spoiled on Saturday, saying they had been accidentally left out unrefrigerated overnight by an employee at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. The health system said Wednesday that the doses of vaccine now appear to have been deliberately spoiled.

    Police in Grafton, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Milwaukee, said in a statement that the department, FBI and Food and Drug Administration are “actively” investigating the case. Police said they were notified of the alleged tampering Wednesday night. Police said Thursday morning that no other information would be immediately released, and declined to say if any arrests have been made.

  23. Who Cares says

    For a change the reduction in the number of doses to 20 million isn’t the republicans fault.
    Ramping up the production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine ran into a roadblock with not enough raw materials which resulted in halving the output. They do expect to do the full run of 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion doses at the end of 2021.
    The blame that at least half the doses (to have that second shot around) haven’t been used already falls squarely on the federal republicans who have been fighting tooth and nail against bills that disburse funds to the state for setting up and running vaccination drives. States that have had to get very creative (due to the balanced budget requirement for states) to even be able to do what they are doing now without those additional funds.