Why Can’t We Vaccinate Faster?

Donald G. McNeil Jr.
10 min readMar 10, 2021
First Covid shot, 2:14 AM January 29, Brooklyn Army Terminal

One year ago this week, I went into hiding from the coronavirus.

On March 12, I taped one episode of The Daily inside a studio at The New York Times. With the help of a slightly nervous producer who lived a short bicycle ride away, I did the the next on March 13 from my Brooklyn living room, describing my own Lockdown, Day 1.

(That was the week the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, flights from Europe were cut off, and Americans were urged to stay home. Life suddenly got simpler — and a lot scarier.)

Now, exactly one year later, I’m slouching toward immunity.

I got my second shot on February 27, so my boosted antibodies and primed T-cells are now kicking in. Saturday, March 13 is my second-shot-plus-two-weeks point.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just ruled that people like me can tiptoe partially out of hiding. If we tread carefully, we can see our grandchildren or hold small dinner parties indoors with other double vaccinees.

That’s wonderful news for us.

But the news for the country as a whole is anything but wonderful. Though we have dropped from January’s peak, we seem stuck at nearly 60,000 new cases a day. That is twice as bad as the terrible spring surge that drove us all indoors.

We are vaccinating a little more than 2 million people a day. In a population of 330 million, most of whom may eventually need two shots, that’s not fast enough.

I’m vaccinated only because I got ridiculously lucky.

During my last Daily appearance, on January 27, I lamented that, like many of my Brooklyn neighbors over age 65, I could not find an open vaccine slot.

A colleague who heard that emailed me the next day to say that a few had just opened up at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and if I moved fast, I might snag one.

I did, and got my first Moderna dose at 2:14 AM on January 29, meandering from one trailer to another in the terminal’s parking lot in the freezing cold.

Having listened to and read a lot of other people’s stories, I think I can honestly say that this is the biggest mess of a vaccine rollout I’ve ever covered. It is a Keystone

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Donald G. McNeil Jr.

New York Times, 1976–2021. Last beat: lead Covid reporter. 2020 Chancellor Award; 2021 NYT team Pulitzer donaldgmcneiljr1954@gmail.com