Trump Administration Holding Additional Vaccine Doses Until 2021, Likely To Fall Short Of 2020 Goal

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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The Trump administration and Operation Warp Speed officials are likely to fall short of their goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. 

Roughly 2 million people have officially received their first dose of the two-dose vaccine as of Monday, Dec. 28, Fox News reported. However, Admiral Brett Giroir, director of testing for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Monday that the 2 million doses estimate was likely low due to lagging reporting. 

“The 2 million number is probably an underestimate, we distributed to the states 10.8 million doses,” Giroir said on Good Morning America. “That 2 million number is delayed three to seven days… We’re going to distribute another 4.7 million this week, so by the end of this week, in the hands of the states [will be] over 15.5 million doses.”

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday on Face The Nation that the pace of vaccination currently happening is slower than what officials had hoped for. “The idea that we’re going to get to 20 million vaccinations by the end of the year, that’s probably unrealistic at this point.” (RELATED: Biden Coronavirus Adviser Celine Grounder Says He Will Invoke Defense Production Act To Surge Vaccine Production)

The original plan of the administration was to procure 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2020, USA Today reported. About half of those doses were to be distributed in December, with the other half being held into 2021 to be delivered as second doses for those same recipients. The second doses are being held back to ensure they are available in the event of production problems. Five percent of doses are being held as an emergency supply. 

Gottlieb told USA Today he disagreed with the strategy in early December. “We should get as many shots in our arms as possible right away. The idea that we need to cut (the doses) in half and give half of it now and hold onto it, so we have supply in January to get the second dose… I just fundamentally disagree with that.” 

The Moderna vaccine has been found to be up to 80% effective with only the first dose injected, as pointed out in a recent Washington Post column by Marc Thiessen. Thiessen, like Gottlieb, argues that the vaccine should be distributed to as many people as possible up front even if it only means partial immunity. (RELATED: ‘I Regret Nothing’: Doctor Fired From Walter Reed Hospital After Slamming Trump’s Limo Ride)

Gottlieb said to USA Today that he expects another 40 million doses to be ready by the time people need their second shots. Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine, agreed with his assessment. “I will accept a bit of risk in terms of supply to get to that goal as long as manufacturers will promise that the second doses are highly, highly likely to be available for those who got the first dose.”

The United States is currently experiencing more than 2,000 deaths per day from the virus, according to the CDC seven-day rolling average. Thiessen says the U.S. could get at least partial immunity to every at-risk healthcare worker and person over 75 years of age in the country in December by not holding back vaccine doses. Those two populations together make up nearly 40 million people. The U.S. will have about 40 million doses available by the end of 2020, according to CBS