The United States won’t vaccinate as many people against the coronavirus by the end of the year as was originally estimated by federal officials, President Donald Trump’s Covar-19 vaccine tsar said Wednesday.
According to the latest census by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 11.4 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines were distributed across the country on Monday morning, but only about 2.1 million were given to humans. This is nowhere near the US health authorities’ original goal of injecting at least 20 million Americans with their first doses before the end of the year.
“We agree that this number is lower than we had hoped,” said Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, during a press conference. “We know it should be better and we’re working hard to do better,” he said.
The CDC has recognized that due to delays in receiving data from the states and jurisdictions that they report to federal officials, their own data is out of date. “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 several factors,” the agency said.
U.S. General Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, said he was working to fix the data reporting delay, which is currently 72 to 96 hours ago. The CDC updates its vaccine numbers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. CET, according to the agency.
Even so, the US is doing “really well,” so far, Perna said, adding that the actual number of cans being distributed is now more than 14 million. The operation began this week with the delivery of second doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to those who were vaccinated with a first shot in mid-December.
The CDC says on its website that the federal government has not yet started its vaccine distribution partnership with major pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens, which have been tasked with vaccinating long-term care residents.
CVS Health spokesman TJ Crawford told CNBC on Wednesday that the pharmacy chain will be delivering the vaccines to long-term care facilities in 48 states and Washington, DC starting earlier this week. Walgreens spokeswoman Kelli Teno said the company will also offer vaccines in 48 states and in Washington, DC starting this week.
Despite the delays, Operation Warp Speed spokesman Michael Pratt said the US was on the verge of meeting its target of injecting 20 million Americans with its first shot by the end of the year.
“Operation Warp Speed remains on track to deliver approximately 40 million vaccine doses and provide 20 million primary vaccination doses by the end of December 2020. The distribution of the 20 million primary doses extends to the first week of January when states place orders for them “he said in a statement.
Perna also applauded state health officials for their work in rolling out the cans, contradicting President Donald Trump, who went to Twitter earlier in the day to blame states for the slower-than-expected rollout, saying the US had the life-saving ones Shots distributed but states must manage them.
“The federal government has distributed the vaccines to the federal states,” said the president in a tweet. “Now it is up to the states to manage. Move on!”
The irregular vacation schedule likely explains some of the delays in reporting vaccinations, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials who oversee vaccination planning, in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Vaccine shipments are arriving in the first half of the week, but many places have decided not to hold vaccination clinics during the Christmas break late last week. The biggest problem, however, is that many states are required to provide up to half of their doses for the federal government’s partnership to vaccinate long-term care residents through pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens, Hannan said.
“These count as dispensed doses, but they’re basically just sitting in the long-term care facility’s bank,” Hannan said. She added that hospitals are more focused on their vaccination programs by rescheduling appointments and taking time to make sure they store and mix the doses properly.
“You’re doing all of these things right and I think we don’t want to rush,” said Hannan. “Of course we have to speed things up when we go beyond healthcare, but I think there are only a number of factors that are contributing, none of which are a major problem for me.”
– CNBC’s Will Feuer and Melissa Repko contributed to this report.