The United States rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been running far behind schedule, as only 4.5 million people have received an initial dose—15 million fewer inoculations than the federal government had promised by the end of 2020. At the current rate, the U.S. would need almost a decade to meet its goal of inoculating 80 percent of the population against the coronavirus.
The need for vaccines has never been more urgent. More than 20.4 million people in the U.S. have been infected, more than 350,000 have died, and caseloads continue to rise.
“No major crisis in the last 100 years has been as badly managed by our national leaders as this pandemic,” says Stephen Flynn, founding director of Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute. “At every level, the systems that we have in place for dealing with this disaster and its consequences have been failing us.”
Flynn believes there is reason to expect improvement when Joe Biden takes over as U.S. president on Jan. 20—but he fears any delay in providing vaccines could have dangerous consequences.
“The risk of the current delays with rolling out vaccinations is that it gives the virus time to mutate in ways that potentially may make it even more deadly,” says Flynn, who served as a national security and Homeland Security advisor to four presidential administrations on both sides of the aisle. “There’s always a worry that you could get a new mutation that reduces the effectiveness of the vaccines.”