How many Covid-19 vaccines does the US have? White House blames Trump administration for lack of data
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says that efforts to accelerate vaccination may be hindered by supply constraints
President Joe Biden has pledged to use the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine manufacturing and to administer 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines in 100 days. However, Dr Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has cautioned that the current supply crunch is what she is most worried about, and the scale of that supply crunch is a big unknown for the agency head. This is making it more difficult for states to accurately plan, and is a problem that adds to the already massive task before the Biden administration, said experts.
Dr Walensky hinted that the reason why the federal government remains in the dark about just how much vaccine is currently available is due to a lack of data gathered under former President Donald Trump.
“I would say one of the biggest problems right now is, I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have. And if I can’t tell it to you, then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials. If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting, not just this week but next week and the week after, they can’t plan. They can’t figure out how many sites to roll out, they can’t figure out how many vaccinators that they need and they can’t figure out how many appointments to make for the public,” Dr Walensky told Fox News Sunday. She added, “So if they overshoot it, then we have vaccine on the shelf. If they undershoot it, we have these queues and queues of people, people whose appointments are canceled. And, either way, we have challenges. So the fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration, and weeks into planning, how much vaccine we have just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with.”
Two coronavirus vaccines, one developed by Pfizer-BioNtech, and another by Moderna, have so far been authorized for emergency use in the US. But vaccines have been slowly rolling out in the US and states are dealing with shortages just as new virus variants, some more contagious, have emerged. The CDC reports that 41,411,550 doses have been distributed across the US as of January 24, but only 21,848,655 doses have been administered.
Dr Walensky admitted that the US needs to move faster to immunize Americans against the coronavirus, but explained that efforts to accelerate vaccination may be hindered by supply constraints.
“I think that the supply is probably going to be the most limiting constraint early on and we’re really hoping that after that first 100 days we’ll have much more production, not just for these two vaccines, but we are hopeful that we’ll have another one from Johnson & Johnson in the weeks ahead and perhaps even a fourth coming down the pipeline. So, we are really hoping that we’ll have more vaccines and that will increase the pace at which we can do the vaccinations,” she emphasized.
Dr Walensky’s statements come even as White House chief of staff Ron Klain has criticized the Trump administration’s rollout of the Covid-19 vaccinatiom program, calling it ‘chaotic’ and “very limited.” He emphasized that the US faces distribution problems because the Trump administration, which started the program, did not have a plan.
“The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole did not really exist when we came into the White House. As everyone in America has seen, the way in which people get vaccine is chaotic. It’s very limited. We’ve seen this factor all over the country where millions of doses have been distributed. About half of that has been given out,” Klain told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He explained, “So the process of getting that vaccine into arms, that’s the hard process, that’s where we're behind as a country and that’s where we’re focused, in the Biden administration, on getting that ramped up.”
Acknowledging the current gap between vaccine distribution and administration, he said it was a very complex process that required help on all fronts. According to Klain, the US needs more vaccines, more vaccinators, and more vaccination sites, and informed that the Biden administration is “tackling all three.”
“We’re going to own this problem. We’re going to work closely with the states. They are our key partners in getting this done. But we’re also going to do the work ourselves. We’re going to set up these federal vaccination centers to make sure that in states that don’t have enough vaccination sites, we fill those gaps. We’re going to work closely with the manufacturers to ramp up production,” he said.
The Biden administration had released a comprehensive plan for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic last week, including an increase in the number of vaccination sites, increased vaccine production, and epanding masking and testing, among others.
Stating the Biden administration will use “all the powers we have in the White House,” Klain added they would work with “Congress to get more funding to also accelerate this so that we could improve the rate at which we're vaccinating people.” He warned that as the president has acknowledged, there are going to be setbacks, “There are going to be bad days. But we’re working on this hard every single day,” he noted.
Calling Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days ‘ambitious,’ the chief of staff emphasized that this is “not our final goal.” “100 million people, 100 million shots is a bold, ambitious goal. But we need to keep going after that. So that is our goal. That is our first goal. It's not our final goal. It's not the endpoint. It’s just a metric that the American people can watch and measure how we're doing,” said Klain.