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Doctor on COVID-19 vaccine rollout: 'There's been a lack of coordination at the federal level'

Dr. Taison Bell, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Divisions of Infectious Disease and Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down the latest developments on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: And as I mentioned just before the break, we currently have more than 21 million cases of coronavirus in the country right now. The daily death count yesterday hit a new record. 3,600 people lost their lives to the virus, extending the death toll to roughly 358,000.

We're joined now by Dr. Taison Bell, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Divisions of Infectious Disease and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia. So, Doctor, I want to start with the second vaccine shot that you just received. How have you been feeling after you've been getting the first and now the second shot of that vaccine, and what can our viewers expect possibly when they get their vaccine?

TAISON BELL: Well, thanks for having me on, Kristin. And yes, you're right. I received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, and I did have some more side effects this time. The clinical trials showed that the side effects were common more often after receiving a second dose. So last evening I had a little bit of a headache and a little bit of fatigue, and then when I went to bed, I had some chills. Couldn't quite get comfortable, and that lasted until around 4:30 in the morning or so.

And then everything kind of got better. I woke up in the morning a little achy. And by this point, I feel almost back to normal. Just have a little bit of shoulder pain where I got the injection but feeling fine.

One thing to point out is that the side effects are expected in some cases, and it's a good thing. It basically means that my immune system is generating a response so that later if I get exposed to the coronavirus, I have that extra degree of protection.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, tired and achy is not too terrible. I feel like once I turned 30, I feel that all the time anyway, so at least that's not something that's going to hold me back from getting this vaccine.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the vaccine distribution, at least as you see it here in the United States. We're under where we want to be in terms of the vaccination numbers, and now we're hearing stories about people potentially jumping the line, stalking pharmacies and health-care centers, vaccines potentially expiring soon before they even make it into the arms of folks who want it.

What are you seeing? I know that you were able to get this vaccine, but for everyone else, what do you think about this vaccine plan, or perhaps a lack thereof, that we have here in the US?

TAISON BELL: Yeah, I think the lack thereof characterization is more accurate. I think, you know, let's be realistic here. This is the most complicated vaccination campaign in the history of mankind, so it's not going to be easy. But I think what we're seeing is that there's been a lack of coordination at the federal level. It's basically been pushed to the states, and the states are already overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, as you mentioned at the top of the segment.

So you are tasking public-health agencies that are traditionally underfunded, traditionally understaffed. They're not staffed for dealing with major crises statewide, and now we're putting distribution on top of them and putting them in charge, and it's very difficult.

And so we're seeing mismatches in supply and demand. We're seeing episodes where vaccines are actually expiring. We saw long lines in Florida where residents were lining up overnight and still weren't able to get vaccinated. We need someone to step in with true leadership and actually take the reins and do high-level coordination for a very complicated task.

KRISTIN MYERS: You know, when I heard that we were supposed to vaccinate 20 million in December and that we've only done 5 million, I think my head just kind of sank because it meant that I was going to have to stay indoors for even longer. So how long do you think that we'll have to be in this work-from-home, no-going-out world this year in 2021 considering how far behind we are right now in terms of vaccinating American citizens and residents?

TAISON BELL: Well, my sincere hope is that we'll have a hockey-stick phenomenon where we have challenges in distribution earlier on as we're kind of figuring out the kinks and the different logistical challenges of getting different vaccines to different communities. But then after we kind of work through these problems, we'll be able to accelerate both the manufacturing and the distribution so that we can stay on our original track.

As you know, the Biden administration has set out a goal for 100 million people vaccinated in the first hundred days. We'll see if it can achieve that goal. It seems quite a high goal. But my hope is that we'll be able to pick up the speed in the coming weeks.

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to ask you, Dr. Bell, if you think that this messy rollout plan is now going to be susceptible to scamming, black-market purchases. I know a lot of folks really want to get their hands on their vaccines. What do you make of what's coming down in the future, at least when it comes to this distribution?

TAISON BELL: Well, being thoughtful about it and making sure that everyone has access-- we have equitable access to vaccines because we know that a disproportionate community, and the Black and brown community in particular, have had disproportionate impacts from COVID-19. So we have to keep all this in mind when we have distribution.

There was an example in Florida who used Eventbrite to register their residents, and that didn't turn out well at all, and some residents actually fell victim to some scams where people created fake websites and charged people to register for the vaccine. It should be no cost to individuals.

But we have to be very mindful of this. And, you know, I think, again, tasking it specifically with state public-health agencies is probably not the way to go without some higher-level coordination to make sure that we can kind of match up supply with demand.

I think what also complicates this is that we have different candidates, the Pfizer and Moderna, which both have different dosing schedules and different storage requirements. So that, you know, adds another layer of complexity on top of this.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. Dr. Taison Bell from the University of Virginia, thank you so much for joining us and giving us all of those updates.

TAISON BELL: Thank you, Kristin.