President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to distribute and administer Covid vaccine shots, saying the administration had failed to achieve its own goals.
“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling far behind,” he said at a press conference. “As I have long feared and warned, efforts to distribute and administer the vaccine are not progressing as they should.”
He said his government will “move heaven and earth” to expedite the distribution and delivery of the Covid vaccines once he takes office on Jan. 20. He reiterated his government’s pledge to have administered 100 million doses of vaccine by his 100th day in office.
To achieve that goal, Biden said, it would “be five to six times faster than the current 1 million shots a day”. He said his team will act more aggressively to increase the administration of the shots, but even at 1 million a day, it will take months for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.
“This will be the greatest operational challenge we have ever faced as a nation,” he added. “We’re going to do it. It’s going to take a tremendous new effort. It’s not underway yet.”
Biden said his administration will also invoke the Defense Production Act, a law of war that allows the president to force companies to prioritize manufacturing for national security to ensure manufacturers have enough materials to make vaccines . He said he would also use the authority to expand production of personal protective equipment such as masks.
He added that his government will “set up vaccination centers and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities”.
While more than 11.4 million doses of vaccine had been distributed to states on Monday, just over 2.1 million doses were given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency notes that when states and jurisdictions report the data, their data may lag behind the actual number of doses given.
“A large difference between the number of doses distributed and the number of doses administered is expected at this point in the COVID vaccination program due to a number of factors including delays in reporting doses administered, managing available vaccine stocks by jurisdiction and imminent introduction of vaccination by the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, “the agency said on its vaccine tracking website.
CDC officials did not respond to CNBC’s request for further comment on the inequality between administered and distributed doses.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, admitted Tuesday on CNN that the vaccine roll-out has been slower than expected.
“We are certainly not at the numbers we wanted at the end of December,” he said in an interview with Jim Sciutto. “I think we will see an increase in momentum in January that will hopefully allow us to catch up on the planned pace Jim.”
Michael Pratt, a spokesperson for Operation Warp Speed, reiterated that the number of doses reported by the CDC is likely to be under counting due to delays in reporting data.
“Operation Warp Speed remains on track to deliver approximately 40 million vaccination doses and provide 20 million primary vaccination doses by the end of December 2020. The distribution of the 20 million primary vaccination doses extends to the first week of January when states place orders for them “he said in a statement.
Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory team, said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning” that in-depth administration “does not have all the information it needs to understand where the bottlenecks are”.
He also noted that he is concerned that the Trump administration is overly optimistic about the vaccination schedule. Trump’s HHS secretary Alex Azar said the general public could be vaccinated by March.
“I worry that if things get back to normal, I’ll be over-promising,” said Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard University.
He vowed that the Biden administration would be more transparent about where the problems lie, be it with the production, the distribution or the administration of the recordings.