Kansans are confused by vaccine rollout. We need an information czar to communicate plan.
The coronavirus pandemic joins the Civil War and the fight against Nazism and Japanese aggression in World War II as one of the most deadly events in American history. The numbers are sobering: The combined American deaths in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War total 500,124.
Coronavirus deaths in this country will soon overtake that grisly number, as over 470,000 American lives have already been lost. Those three wars took the lives of 6,616 Kansans. Sadly, Kansas will probably lose more than that number to coronavirus by the end of 2021.
In contrast to the unified national efforts that should mark our response to a crisis of such epic proportions, America’s response has been piecemeal, scattershot, divergent and localized. Several data aggregators have consistently ranked the United States among countries that have most poorly handled the coronavirus, along with Mexico, Brazil and India.
Contrary to popular belief, the countries that have excelled in their response are not just authoritarian states but such democracies as Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand and Iceland. One hallmark of these countries’ responses was clear channels of information; in short, clarity over confusion.
At the national level, Anthony Fauci emerged as a trusted voice delivering guidance. I recall early in the pandemic listening to a sports talk radio station and hearing the host say: “I don’t care anything about politics or any of that. All I know is whatever Dr. Fauci says, I do it.”
In an era of distrust in government, Dr. Fauci emerged as a national anchor. Bizarrely, he was then cast aside, badmouthed and even banned from doing TV interviews by the previous administration, squandering his effectiveness. A recently revealed swing state election analysis by Donald Trump’s own pollsters said, “Fauci garnered nearly a 3 to 1 positive job approval on handling of (coronavirus) overall.”
Dr. Fauci has now returned after more-rational actors realized what an asset he is in unifying the American response.
The coronavirus vaccine was developed at, yes, warp speed, but getting it into arms has proved difficult and confusing. In Kansas, people are asking, who is in charge? Is it the state? The governor? The state health department? The county? The county health department? All of the above?
Websites proliferate, but also seem to lead nowhere, making them pointless. Confusion is due to both the uncoordinated efforts that signaled the original national vaccine rollout and the state’s strategy of sending out vaccines to the counties and telling them to be in charge.
That strategy may be effective in some cases, but it has also many Kansans to conclude that the Kansas government and governor don’t know what they’re doing because local counties either won’t or can’t answer citizen questions or provide guidance.
Gov. Laura Kelly should appoint a Kansas vaccine czar. This person will not be in charge of vaccine administration but would serve as the central information clearinghouse for the state so that citizens know what’s going on, when vaccines will arrive and how to get vaccinated.
The governor has a state to administer and KDHE Secretary Lee Norman has a pandemic to manage. A media-friendly, trusted central voice is needed to travel the state, appear on every TV newscast, radio show and podcast imaginable, explaining Kansas’ vaccination program in a clear, transparent, positive and non-political manner, transcending partisan mentalities.
He or she doesn’t have to be Dr. Fauci, but I think Kansas needs some who can bring clarity to confusion.