With Extra Vaccines Secured, Biden Warns of Hurdles to Come

WASHINGTON – The Biden government said Thursday it had received an additional 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, enough to vaccinate every American adult, but President Biden warned logistical hurdles would most likely mean many Americans would still be around by the end of the year will not be vaccinated summer.

The extra doses add up to a 50 percent increase in the vaccine and give administration the number of doses Mr Biden said last month would serve 300 million people by the end of summer. But getting those shots into people’s arms will still be difficult. Both vaccines are two doses three to four weeks apart. Mr. Biden lamented the “gigantic” logistical challenge he faced while performing at the National Institutes of Health. He also openly expressed frustration with the previous administration.

“It’s one thing to have the vaccine,” said Mr Biden. “It’s another thing to have vaccines.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said Pfizer and Moderna would each provide 300 million doses in “regular increments” by the end of July.

The administration aims for a gradual process. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, predicted Thursday morning that any American could look for a vaccine as early as April in an “open season” that would expand availability beyond priority categories.

“Until we get to April, I’ll call it, to put it better, the ‘open season’,” said Dr. Fauci in an interview with NBC’s “Today”. “Namely, virtually anyone and everyone in any category could start getting vaccinated.”

But the problem could be giving doses to people who aren’t readily looking for them.

Mr Biden has carefully avoided his White House being consumed by criticism of his predecessor, but on Thursday he targeted Donald J. Trump directly for saying he failed to put in place a procedure for mass vaccination. The president, who said he had promised to speak openly with Americans about the challenges of the pandemic, accused Mr Trump of creating a significant one by not overseeing the creation of an optimized vaccine distribution program. “The vaccination program was in much, much worse shape than my team and I expected,” said Biden.

“While scientists have done their job discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor – I will be very frank about this – did not do his job to prepare for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions,” added Biden.

“It was a big mess,” he said. “It will take time to mend to be blunt with you.”

Health officials in the Trump administration have pushed these proposals back, referring to hundreds of briefings that Department of Health and Human Services officials have offered to the incoming health team, including vaccine assignment and distribution.

The highly decentralized vaccine distribution and administration plans that give state and local health authorities authority after the doses have been dispensed were worked out with staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense.

Officials involved in the last government’s distribution plans said late last year that outside of the first few weeks, when they carefully checked the flow of reserves for the second dose, they always planned to ship cans as soon as they were available, and that they never intended to store these doses.

The agreement for an additional 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccine helps fulfill a promise made by Mr Biden in January to increase the supply to cover a larger segment of the population. He said at the time that the government made this deal with the two manufacturers as part of its larger promise that around 300 million Americans would get a dose of the vaccine by the end of summer or early fall.

Updated

Apr. 12, 2021 at 1:13 am ET

On Thursday, Mr Biden said his government had “now bought enough vaccine to vaccinate all Americans”.

Dr. Nicole Lurie, who was the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response under President Barack Obama, said the hesitation of the vaccine could affect how fast some Americans who want to be vaccinated could get their shot, but that more care, more work would mean to get vaccines people.

“We’re going to reach more and more people, and more people need to make extra efforts to reach them,” she said. “One has to hope that given the growing supply, the public will still have great demand for vaccines. This is really the unknown. “

The government had already received 400 million doses of the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies approved for emergency distribution – doses expected by the end of June. Mr Biden said Thursday that companies would now ship them by the end of May.

A third manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its single-dose emergency vaccine. That decision could be made by the end of the month and allow the vaccine to be distributed in the first week of March. However, the company is still trying to show that it can manufacture the vaccine on a large scale at its Baltimore facility.

Federal officials have so far refused to say how much of this vaccine will be ready for distribution once it clears regulatory hurdles, but they caution to expect a spate of new doses from Johnson & Johnson soon.

“We haven’t found that the level of manufacturing allows us to have as much vaccine as we think is necessary,” Andy Slavitt, a senior White House pandemic advisor, said recently.

To date, only about 10 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. On Thursday, the CDC announced that about 34.7 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 11.2 million people who were fully vaccinated.

The speed of vaccinations has accelerated steadily over the past few weeks. The number of daily recordings now averages 1.5 million compared to 1.1 million two weeks ago. At this rate, Mr Biden will easily fulfill his promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

According to state and federal health officials, the main barrier to vaccinating more people at this time is the lack of care. The administration has been looking for a way to speed up production, including a possible breakthrough where Moderna would fill its vials with more cans and potentially get out millions more cans earlier.

However, Mr. Biden faces a variety of long-standing manufacturing constraints, including limited free space around the world to manufacture more vaccines and the delicate and complex nature of vaccine manufacturing.

White House officials have indicated that their work increases weekly vaccine supplies by 28 percent. However, these doses are due to an expected increase in manufacturing.

Unlike the previous administration, the White House pandemic team has been briefing governors on planned care in three-week increments so state health officials will better know how to plan ahead.

And they took a much more aggressive approach by using federal resources to shoot guns. The White House announced this week that it is building five new vaccination centers, including three in Texas and two in New York, specifically designed to vaccinate people of color. The government also said it plans to deliver 1 million doses of vaccine to 250 government-supported community health centers in underserved neighborhoods. A new vaccination program for federal pharmacies began this week.

And on Friday, the government announced that it would send over 1,000 active troops to Covid-19 vaccination centers across the country operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA, part of the Department of Homeland Security, has announced that it will set up around 100 vaccination sites nationwide this month and spend $ 1 billion on vaccination measures, including community vaccination sites.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed to the coverage.

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