Bay Area doctor suggests using lottery system for COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus Vaccine

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Frontline workers at MarinHealth in Marin County, California recently received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but for many others — the wait continues. That is where the idea of a lottery system, as a more equitable way to coordinate vaccinations, comes in.

“The reason why I like it, is because it’s still addressing risks,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, who is a medical professor and infections disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco Parnassus Campus. “It is super simple, I think part of the vaccine rollout is that no one really understands the rules.

He thinks the lottery system should be considered after a recent article put forth by his colleague Dr. Wachter on implementing a system to better address the deeply flawed vaccine rollout.

Chin-Hong says the blame stretches from understaffed facilities to the fragile nature of the vaccine, to underfunded public health departments.  

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Regarding the lottery concept, the idea put forth is to vaccinate everyone 55 and up. After that, use numbers from birthday or social with the states rolling out numbers every two weeks who is open to show up at CVS or Walgreens. Government data shows 92% of all deaths from COVID-19 occur in 55 and up.

“We have to come up with a simple system that appeals equitable. You want this issue to not be political. This is a health issue. You want the people to trust it,” Dr. Chin-Hong said. “It is a good, decent model and you aren’t doing something out of step with science. We already have people gaming the system, this would avoid that.”

Nothing is perfect, and the lottery system the authors noted would not make everyone happy. But as it is now — the current system in place with tiers and algorithms.

“Speed is everything. If we keep the pace we have now, it will take 10 to 20 years to get the vaccine out,” Dr. Chin-Hong said. “Time is money, people are dying we need to get this vaccine out.”

Could this be a reality? All eyes are on the Biden-Harris team as they get into place. We know government doesn’t move fast, but time is not on our side.

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