Helping Students Understand the Challenges of Vaccine Distribution

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
vaccine availability and challenges graph

What challenges do health officials meet when tasked with distributing vaccines?

Logisitical Challenges of Mass Vaccine Distribution

Watch the short video clip, then read the summary below and the articles linked within the summary and then answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video,?click here.?

President Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days even as federal and state officials grapple with logistical challenges and the absence of a national inoculation plan.

  • Part of the challenge of vaccinating everyone is that there are still only enough doses of the vaccine for a small part of the population, though production is increasing. At the moment, government authorities can’t guarantee vaccine doses more than a week ahead of time and are often reluctant to over-promise vaccine availability.
  • Another problem is logistics: How to get vaccine doses from manufacturers to states and on to the people who are eligible (at the moment, most states are focused on vaccinating health care workers, the elderly and those most at risk). In many states, vaccine doses are available but delayed in getting to the people who are eligible to be vaccinated.
  • Journalist Caroline Chen suggests that it is unlikely that Biden would invoke the Defense Production Act to produce more vaccine. This is a law that allows presidents to order privately owned manufacturers to make a certain product during time of crisis. It is unlikely the DPA would result in more capacity for production, according to Chen.

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Discussion Questions: Vaccines and Logistics

  1. What?are some of the challenges to vaccinating more people?
  2. Who?is eligible for vaccines in most states?
  3. Why?is there a gap between the number of available vaccines and the number of people actually being vaccinated, according to Caroline Chen?
  4. When?and?where?are decisions made about who is eligible for the vaccine?
  5. How?will the Biden administration try to speed up distribution of the vaccine?

Focus Questions

  1. What do you think authorities should do to make sure the vaccine is distributed faster and that it’s distributed fairly (that is, in a way that doesn’t leave out some groups or eligible people).
  2. Biden has suggested the federal government may take a stronger roll in distributing the vaccine directly to those eligible through the national guard and other national measures. Do you think this is a good idea, or should distribution logistics be left to states? Why do you think so?

Media Literacy:?Do you know how to find out who is currently eligible for the vaccine in your community and how they sign up for it? Do research as a class to find out.

Assignment: How to sign an older relative or community member up for the COVID vaccine

*Teacher’s Note:?We heard a great suggestion from a teacher on Twitter who said that a good extension activity might be for students to help an older person sign up for the COVID vaccine. We decided to try it ourselves for a relative in Virginia who is 80-years-old and still lives at home by himself. Here is what we took away from this task:

  • Your students will learn a great deal about media literacy, patience (while experiencing some frustration, as we did) and how local and state government works.
  • We started off on Google, of course, by typing in “How to get the COVID vaccine” which led us to the Business Insider article. We had to click through many screens (we posted screenshots here), but the 20-25 minute task was well worth it. There is no doubt in our mind that young people could help older, senior citizens navigate this issue.

Start off by asking your students:?Do you know anyone in the community who might be eligible for the vaccine but might not know how to sign up? What is a good way to get that information to these people?

You may want to show students our process.

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  • Click on “Find out Which Phase You Are Eligible For.”
  • After clicking through several screens to figure out how to sign up a person who is 75 years or older, we were directed?here:

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  • It’s necessary to click on the link to your LOCAL health department’s website (that is the?county?in which the person lives).
  • We typed in our zip code “Alexandria City County” and were directed?here.

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  • We clicked on “Get Vaccinated” and came across?this page:

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  • We clicked on “For updates on COVID-19, visit?alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus?(see tiny letters above) under?“All Alexandria Health Department Clinical Services by Appointment Only,”?and came across another screen where we clicked on “Vaccines Are Here – Learn More.”

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  • This is the page we landed on:

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Ask your students:?What skills did it take to finally find the COVID vaccine registration page in my county?

How is the process in the state of Virginia different than their state (i.e. there may be a hotline to call instead, as is the case in some states)?

How do they feel once they’ve accomplished this task? Was the process easy or hard?

Additional Resources

The internet is full of a lot of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and the COVID vaccine. How do you sort out what’s supported by science and what isn’t? It can be hard, but training helps.

  • Use?this lesson?to better understand the difference between misinformation and disinformation, and how you can assess the credibility of information online.
  • You can use?this lesson?to better hone skills of determining fact from fiction.

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Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

Resources

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