Biden administration unsure how much vaccine is actually available

biden administration vaccine
Photo via Trump White House Archive/Flickr (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Despite a pledge to deliver 100 million vaccines in 100 days, the Biden Administration revealed it is unsure how much vaccine is available to distribute to state and local health officials. 

In a Jan. 24 interview, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky noted, “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.” 

According to NBC News’ report, Walensky also noted that the federal government does not have the vaccine inventory “we would like now for states like New York [or] for other states that are claiming to have run out of vaccine.” She added that “the supply is probably going to be the most limiting constraint early on” in reaching the 100 million goal. 

The Washington Post reported that on Jan. 23, the U.S. delivered more than 1.3 million vaccinations, with an additional 1.1 million on Jan. 24—the sixth straight day of more than a million inoculations. Should the U.S. keep at that rate, it will be on track to meet the new president’s goal. 

Yet, some critics note that it might not be enough. According to Bloomberg, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, maintains that vaccinating 70-85% of the U.S. population by August would enable a return to normalcy. That would require administering 460 million-560 million doses, figuring the current vaccines require a first shot followed by a booster—more than double the rate of Biden’s 100-day goal.

However, that doesn’t factor in a single-dose vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson-developed shot which could be approved for use by February. 

Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, noted that Biden is “taking into account everything that could go right—and also what could go wrong—and he’s making a measured decision about what target we should aim for. But make no mistake, his goal is not only to meet that, but it’s to exceed that. But we’ve got to pull out the stops.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted the initial Biden Administration goal was based on doubling what the Trump Administration had managed in the first 38 days of vaccinations, though vaccinations approached the goal rate in Trump’s last week. 

“America is already on track for 100 million in 100 days,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Twitter. “Biden could do 200 million in 100 days. Republicans would support it. Thanks to Trump, he’s already halfway there.” 

Biden himself addressed the goal number on Jan. 21, remarking, “When I announced it, you all said it’s not possible. Come on, give me a break, man. It’s a good start.”

The question over vaccine availability wasn’t the only concern uncovered in weekend news interviews concerning the transition between the Trump Administration and Biden Administration. Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump Administration, said on the Jan. 24 episode of Face the Nation that the Biden Administration may be playing catchup. 

During the interview, she said that, under Trump, there was “no full-time team in the White House working on coronavirus.” She added that she was the only full-time person in the White House working on the pandemic. 

“I went to my people that I’ve known all through the last years in government, all 41, and said, ‘Can you come and help me?’ And so I was able to recruit from other agencies, individuals,” she revealed. 

Birx praised Biden for building a team of experts in testing, vaccines, data and data use, as well as a full-time supply chain point-person, revealing that when she worked with the Trump administration, individuals with those skill sets existed “in different pockets of government.” 

Sources: NBC News, Washington Post, Bloomberg, CBS News

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