The federal government’s role in distributing coronavirus vaccines has hovered somewhere between terrible and downright rotten. There’s some hope Uncle Sam might get his act together soon. 

But as the Government Accountability Office notes, the government has failed to address several key GAO recommendations that would speed-up vaccine delivery, and ensure that when the next pandemic strikes, the U.S. is prepared to meet it. Investigators said:

We remain deeply troubled by the lack of sufficient federal action on critical gaps identified and by the lack of clear plans to address these gaps. For example, a clear and comprehensive vaccine distribution plan remains a work in progress.

At this stage of the pandemic, such a gap is unconscionable. But it’s not the only one. Another big area of concern – securing and strengthening medical supply chains:

The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in the nation’s medical supply chain, which includes personal protective equipment and other supplies necessary to treat individuals with COVID-19. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is an important piece of HHS’s recently developed strategy to improve the medical supply chain to enhance pandemic response capabilities. However, the department has yet to develop a process for engaging about the strategy with key nonfederal stakeholders that have a shared role for providing supplies during a pandemic, such as state and territorial governments and the private sector. GAO’s work has noted the importance of directly and continuously involving key stakeholders, including Congress, in the development of successful agency reforms and helping to harness ideas, expertise, and resources.

The coronavirus exposed a lot of hard truths about U.S. preparedness. It continues to expose new weaknesses – in supply chains, testing, treatment, even basic messaging.

We have to take these lessons to heart, learn from them, and ensure we’re ready when the next superbug appears.