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Bay Area doctor suggests using lottery system for COVID vaccine

Bay Area

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Marin Health frontline workers just got their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but for many others — the wait is still a long way off.

That’s where the lottery idea comes in for one Bay Area doctor.

“The reason why I like it, it is addressing risk,” UCSF Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said. “It is super simple, i think part of the vaccine rollout is that no one really understands the rules.

Dr. Chin-Hong is a medical professor and infectious disease specialist at UCSF.

He talked about a recent article put forth by his colleague Dr. Wachter on implementing a type of lottery system to better address the deeply flawed vaccine rollout, currently looking more like a loose ball getting bounced around in a pinball machine rather than a well-run vehicle smoothly  delivering critical medicine to end a pandemic. 

The doctor says the blame stretches from understaffed facilities, to the fragile nature of the vaccine, to underfunded public health departments.  

Regarding the lottery concept, the idea put forth is to vaccinate everyone 55 and up.

Government data show 92% of all deaths from COVID occur in 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.

“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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