As the year approaches, vaccine deployment lags far behind

The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed ​​promised that 20 million doses would be administered before January 1st. Yet the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show that just over 11 million doses have been distributed, and that only 2.1 million have been administered. to people.

Despite the fact that they are an order of magnitude behind their self-imposed pace and that they will almost certainly miss their year-end numbers, Trump officials tell CNN that the distribution of vaccines is on track and blame the gap for a delay in the reporting of data.

A senior administration official told CNN that the distribution was just where they expected it to be. This official emphasized that the number of vaccinations sent did not produce a delay, although there was a delay in the doses administered.

The CDC’s dashboard, which is currently being updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, says that a large difference between the number of doses distributed and the amount administered at this stage is expected in the Covid vaccination program.

In a statement to CNN, Michael Pratt, chief communications officer of Operation Warp Speed, said: “Operation Warp Speed ​​remains on track to have about 40 million doses of vaccine and allow 20 million doses for first vaccinations against the end of December 2020, with distribution of the first 20 million doses extending over the first week of January, as states place orders for it. ‘

But dr. Anthony Fauci threw cold water on the idea that the distribution of the vaccine was on track, and told Jim Sciutto, CNN, on Tuesday morning that the US “definitely does not have the numbers we wanted at the end of December”. comes with the amount of Covid-19 vaccines administered.

“Even if you are less than 2 million as a count, how many counts can it be?” Fauci said. “So we’re down where we want to be.”

Elected President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to slow down the pace of vaccinations, outlining its own approach to speeding up the vaccination process through greater involvement of the federal government.

“As I have long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. “If it continues to move as it does now, it will take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

Dr Celine Gounder, a Biden Covid-19 adviser, spoke on CNN yesterday about the rate at which people are being vaccinated, saying the country should vaccinate 1 million people every day, not every week.

“It will take us more than a decade to vaccinate all Americans with the Pfizer and Modern vaccines, so this is clearly not an acceptable fit,” Gounder said.

Reasons for delays

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, outlined three main reasons for distribution issues: vaccine supply, inadequate infrastructure, and communications.

Benjamin said the U.S. does not need the vaccine needed to vaccinate the approximately 330 million people who need it. Current figures show that the US has about 11.4 million doses on hand, and government officials said they would expect 20 million doses in early January. This is significantly lower than what the government originally promised, proposing 100 million doses by the beginning of the year.

“We have to make sure we have a strong production capacity. The federal government can help here. I do not know why we do not have the 100 million we originally expected. Remember that it is not just the need to manufacture the vaccine. “But it also contains all the parts, including vials, stoppers, needles, etc. The Defense Production Act can help with this, as well as a healthy federal leadership,” Benjamin told CNN.

The transport and storage of the vaccine is complicated and the ultra-cold delivery chain is not one that has been used in the past. Just learning from the system and getting used to it can slow down the administration of vaccines and even worse.

About 500 doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine had to be discarded, according to a facility spokesman, at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, on Saturday.

“We have learned that about 50 vials of Moderna vaccine were accidentally removed from a pharmacy cabinet overnight,” the medical center said in a statement. “Our internal investigation determined that the vials were not replaced in the refrigerator due to unintentional human error, after being temporarily removed to gain access to other items.”

Benjamin, along with former administration and health officials with whom CNN spoke, said communications about vaccine distribution needed to be clearer to address the public’s understanding of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Biden’s dilemma

Elected President Joe Biden speaks at the Queen Theater on December 29 in Wilmington, Delaware.

As Biden will take office in three weeks, most of the vaccinations are expected to take place under his watch, which is one of the earlier tests of his administration. In his remarks on the coronavirus, he outlined his plans on Tuesday afternoon to increase the administration of vaccines.

“This is going to be the biggest operational challenge we have faced as a nation, but we are going to do it,” Biden said.

The president-elect set a goal of administering 100 million doses in his first hundred days in office, and on Tuesday unveiled the first concrete steps he would take to make it happen, including the controversial approach to the vaccine. process as the Trump administration.

Biden said his administration would help set up mass vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities. The president-elect has said he will use the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine production.

His administration would launch a public education campaign to promote vaccine safety, especially among black, Latino and Native American communities, who are hesitant about the vaccine.

Earlier this month, Biden expressed concern about the status of vaccination plans provided by the outgoing administration. “In any case, there is no detailed plan we have seen on how to get the vaccine out of a container, into a syringe, into someone’s arm,” Biden said during a December 4 meeting in Wilmington.

They also talked to former administration officials, hospital networks and members of the medical community about how to tackle the enormous task. They also had regular contact with government officials and local officials to determine their needs in administering the vaccine, including articles such as funding for state and local governments and additional staff.

“I think they are very aware that the federal government will have to play a much more active role in not only the development of the vaccine but also the actual administration of it,” said one government official in contact with the Biden team. .

“The state health departments are to the extreme fighting against Covid and doing testing. The province and the locals are in the same boat,” the state official said. “It’s not only the scope of the vaccine operation, but it also places it on states that are already dealing.”

According to Benjamin, who was in talks with the transition team, a more nationalized answer may be the answer.

“It requires leadership and coordination at the federal level,” he said. “The purposeful use of the Defense Production Act to address production roadblocks and regulatory barriers. A stronger federal, state and local partnership is also needed for coordination. The Biden administration can address this by providing the leadership,” strengthen the delivery infrastructure and improve communication. “

But some health officials are concerned that changing the process in the middle of the spread could do more harm than good.

This story was updated Tuesday afternoon with Biden’s remarks.