A general apologizes — how refreshing

Gen. Gustave F. Perna, who heads Operation Warp Speed, took the blame for confusion created when the federal government miscalculated how many doses of coronavirus vaccine could be shipped.

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Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who is leading Operation Warp Speed, speaks during at a Nov 13 event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

Evan Vucc/AP

We can’t learn from our mistakes if we don’t fess up to them.

So it was refreshing over the weekend to hear Gen. Gustave F. Perna, head of the federal effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines, offer an actual apology — just when we feared the word had been stricken from the dictionary of politics.

Perna took the blame for the confusion created when the federal government miscalculated how many doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine could be shipped. At least 14 states, including Illinois, learned they would not be getting as many of the vials as they expected. On Dec. 16, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the expected federal nationwide shipment of 8 million doses had been reduced to 4.3 million doses.

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“It was my fault,” Perna said. “It was a planning error, and I am responsible.”

How often lately have we heard words like that from any top federal official, though the government’s response to the pandemic has been appallingly bad? Never once before, as best we can recall. Nobody says “I apologize.” Nobody says “I am responsible.”

At a time when it’s critical to get the vaccines distributed properly across the country, our judgment is that we’re lucky to have Perna heading the effort. We’ll take integrity over perfection any time.

We should also heed the general’s fear, expressed on “60 Minutes” recently, that too few people might line up to get the shots.

Perna looks to be doing his job. We had better do ours.

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