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Vaccine rollout is frustratingly slow

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are underway, but the pace is less than spectacular in Oregon and in Jackson County. That’s not entirely the state’s fault, and Oregon is not alone in getting a slow start. But it still ranks close to the bottom in the number of doses administered compared with the number delivered to the state.

As of Monday, 51,275 doses had been administered statewide. Jackson County accounted for 2,427 of those doses, for a rate of 109.68 per 10,000 people.

But the state has received 190,500 doses. That means Oregon has administered just 26% of the doses it has on hand.

Nationwide, about 32% of available doses had been administered as of Saturday. Some states are doing dramatically better than Oregon. Some have given more than half their allotted doses, and three states more than two-thirds. In Maryland, by contrast, less than 25% have been administered. Officials say delays in reporting may be partly to blame for those low numbers. Federal guidelines allow pharmacies up to 72 hours to report inoculations.

It’s also important to remember that this first wave of vaccinations is reserved for health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. That protects the most vulnerable population, while those further down the list have to wait.

Still, the pace of inoculations is far behind what the White House’s Operation Warp Speed had set as a goal: to administer 20 million doses by December. Instead, the nationwide number is 4.56 million doses so far. As of Monday, 15.4 million doses had been distributed to health care providers, according to The Hill.

State and local health authorities should be doing a better job of communicating with the public about the vaccine rollout. Even if wider distribution will be delayed, it would help inspire confidence if people had a clear idea of where to go when the time comes.

Manufacturer Moderna has pledged to ramp up its production to 600 million doses this year, with 200 million available by the second quarter — which coincides with some predictions of when the vaccine will become more widely available.

That’s good news, but without solid distribution plan to get those doses into people’s arms, and clear communication with the public about where they can go to get a shot, more delays are inevitable.

Prioritizing health care workers and residents of care facilities makes sense, followed by essential workers, people with underlying medical conditions and those older than 65, and then the public at large. But it will still be months before vaccinations are available to the bulk of the population.

Until then, the same rules apply: Wear your mask, practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands frequently. Even after more people start receiving the vaccine, caution is the best medicine.