Corona bureaucracy

Germany’s rate of corona vaccinations has jumped in the past 10 days. That is great, but also frustrating.

Frustrating, because the reasons are symptomatic of how people are being killed by the slow, cautious incompetence of government bureaucracy.

The first reason is that German family doctors are now allowed to give vaccinations, a role previously reserved for centralized vaccination centers.

The second reason is even worse: We have just started a new quarter.

Yes, really.

The discussion on manufacturers vaccine production schedules have largely been on numbers per quarter. Given that the EU is scapegoating them for delays, the manufacturers really really want to avoid missing their targets. And that leads to weirdness at the boundaries of the quarters.

Here’s the data on deliveries in Germany

At Biontech, production is going well, and they are comfortably meeting their Q1 commitment (~12m doses). But they have promised to almost quadruple that in Q2. So through March they delivered a steady 1m doses per week. Then in April, when we start counting against their Q2 target, the deliveries jump to 2.7 million per week.

AstraZeneca are the opposite. They are behind schedule. So they squeezed in a huge delivery at the end of Q1 (actually a couple of days later, but it’s being counted as Q1), like maybe 5x what they usually deliver in a week.

It’s rational behaviour from both companies. When you’re dealing with a short-tempered and annoying customer, you CYA by fulfilling the letter of your contracts, even at the cost of a worse outcome for the customer. And that’s the position the EU have put Biontech and AZ into.

Admittedly this is mainly speculation – but I do think it fits the facts and the (non-altruistic parts of the) motivations of everybody involved

[first posted on Less Wrong]

Written on April 15, 2021