Has the US run out of Covid-19 vaccines? Shocking report suggests stockpile with reserve doses no longer exists
Despite a previously stated strategy of holding back some vaccine doses to ensure people can get their second shot, the Trump administration started releasing its reserve doses in December 2020
The Trump administration announced on January 12 that it was going to release the supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses it was holding in reserve to be used as second shots, days after President-elect Joe Biden announced his plan to do the same. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines require two rounds of injection. The Trump administration had also urged states to open up vaccinations to anyone over age 65, rather than only prioritizing frontline healthcare workers and elderly people in nursing homes
“We’re releasing the entire supply we have for you to order, rather than holding second doses,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar informed. This made several states assume that they would get new doses that could be used to vaccinate new people.
But there is no reserve anymore as the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing vaccine production and rollout, had already started shipping out the stockpile of second doses since the end of December 2020. This implies that there are no extra doses left to send to states, grim news for health officials who had pinned their hopes on a rapid influx of vaccine doses.
“The Trump administration had already begun shipping out what was available, starting at the end of December, taking second doses for the two-dose regimen directly off the manufacturing line. Now, health officials across the country who had anticipated their extremely limited vaccine supply as much as doubling beginning next week are confronting the reality that their allocations will remain largely flat, dashing hopes of dramatically expanding access for millions of elderly people and those with high-risk medical conditions,” The Washington Post reported. It added, “Health officials in some cities and states were informed in recent days about the reality of the situation, while others were still in the dark Friday (January 15).”
According to CNN, when Azar was asked on January 15 whether there is a reserve of second doses left to release, he said, “No. There’s not a reserve stockpile.” Azar suggested that the doses in question had already been allocated to the states. “We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be quality and available to provide the second dose for people, so we’re not sitting on a reserve anymore. We’ve made that available to the states to order,” he told NBC News.
President-elect Joe Biden has set the goal of immunizing 100 million Americans within the first 100 days of his administration. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31,161,075 doses have been Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed, and 12,279,180 total doses have been administered as of January 15, 2021. That tally falls far short of the 20 million vaccinations the Trump administration had promised to administer by the end of 2020.
Governors allege they were deceived
Governors have now accused the Trump administration of misleading states on vaccine supply. Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted that governors were repeatedly told by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that there was a strategic reserve of vaccines. “It appears now that no reserve exists. The Trump administration must answer immediately for this deception,” he demanded.
Governors were told repeatedly by @HHSgov there was a strategic reserve of vaccines, and this week, the American people were told it’d be released to increase supply of vaccine.— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) January 15, 2021
It appears now that no reserve exists. The Trump admin. must answer immediately for this deception. https://t.co/JJky0NcbPi
Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown said: “Last night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.” Calling it a “deception on a national scale,” Brown tweeted: “I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences.”
Last night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) January 15, 2021
This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, all of us, were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) January 15, 2021
I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) January 15, 2021
Colorado Governor Jared Polis said the federal announcement led the state to believe it would get 210,000 more doses next week, but it will now only get 79,000. “I’m shocked we were lied to and there is no national reserve,” he tweeted.
I’m shocked we were lied to and there is no national reserve.Federal announcements that 2nd dose being held in reserve was going to be released led us to expect 210,000 doses next week,other Govs made similar https://t.co/ETVIqM0clH we find out we’ll only get 79,000 next week.— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) January 15, 2021
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo also criticized federal officials, stating that they called on the states to expand eligibility beyond nursing homes and healthcare workers, but did not increase the supply.
“The premise was, by the federal government, when they opened it up to 75-plus and 65-plus, that they would increase the allocation. And the theory was we’ll increase the eligibility, but we’ll increase the allocation. That hasn't happened. They increased the eligibility; they did not increase the supply. The Trump administration said they were going to expedite the second dosage, if you will remember, and rather than holding back the second dose supply, they would send the second dose, and that would increase a state’s supply. It turns out that that was not true,” said Cuomo. He added, “They had already sent out everything they had. So, there was no increase in supply, and in the meantime, there was a dramatic increase in eligibility. So, now you increase the eligibility, you don’t increase the supply, and now you have a very complicated situation. Not only did we not get more supply, we actually got less this week, we went from 300,000 dosages down to 250,000 dosages.”
According to Cuomo, what the Trump administration did was like opening the “floodgates of eligibility.” “And you have a rush of 7 million people, ‘I want a vaccine. I want it now. I was told I'm eligible,’ and that entire flood has to go through a syringe. All this volume and it has to go through the point of a needle literally and figuratively, that's the situation that the federal government created,” emphasized the governor.
Officials attempt to clear confusion
According to the New York Times, senior administration officials clarified that all of the reserve doses “were already dedicated to people who had gotten the vaccine and that Azar was actually just spelling out the logical extension of a distribution policy that had been established by top federal officials in December, when shipments began.”
Michael Pratt, a spokesman for Operation Warp Speed, denied the notion of the reserve being "exhausted" in a statement to CNN. “This week, nearly 13 million total doses have been provided to states to order, millions more than other weeks, as the reserve of second doses is completely made available to order against. States have yet to fully order against their ordering caps. As stated this week, we have now moved to the phase where the full amount released to OWS is being made available to order, first to cover second doses, second to provide additional first doses,” Pratt explained.
Pfizer, meanwhile, said it has been holding on to second doses at the request of the federal government and anticipated no problems supplying them to Americans.
“Operation Warp Speed has asked us to start shipping second doses only recently. As a result, we have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipments to the US. We are working around the clock to produce millions more each day. We have provided OWS with a specific schedule and we foresee no issues in delivering on the commitments we have made,” the company noted.