The additional stockpile of coronavirus vaccine doses promised to be released by the Trump administration this week does not actually exist, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Friday.
Azar said Tuesday that a reserve supply of doses that were previously being held back would be released in full to states to speed up inoculations. States are learning the reserve doses they planned to receive aren’t coming, according to the Washington Post.
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, taken weeks apart, for full efficacy. Trump administration officials initially said they would hold back roughly half of the nation’s vaccine supply to ensure they had enough doses to give everyone who received their first dose a second shot without a delay in case of lagging production.
With the country’s vaccine rollout progressing slower than expected, Azar announced the shift in distribution policy along with several other changes to guidelines Tuesday. However, Operation Warp Speed stopped stockpiling the second doses at the end of 2020, several officials allegedly told the Washington Post. (RELATED: Cuomo Dismisses Vaccine Rollout Criticism From Janice Dean, Claims ‘She’s Not A Credible Source On Anything Except Maybe The Weather’)
Azar admitted to NBC’s Lester Holt Friday there “is not a reserve stockpile,” saying the administration now had enough confidence in production that they didn’t feel it was necessary.
The change was reportedly made as administration officials gained confidence in the vaccine supply chain and did not feel as strong a need to hold onto reserve doses. It now means the expected boost in supply many states were anticipating won’t be possible.
Those ready to receive their second doses will still be able to do so on time, as they are prioritized over those seeking a first shot, the Post reports. However, many state and local healthcare officials are reportedly still confused and frustrated by the changes.
Oregon health director Patrick M. Allen wrote to Azar Thursday, saying the state’s distribution plan was counting on the release of additional reserve doses. “Those plans were made on the basis of reliance on your statement about ‘releasing the entire supply’ you have in reserve. If this information is accurate, we will be unable to begin vaccinating our vulnerable seniors on Jan. 23, as planned,” he wrote.
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
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown said she was “shocked and appalled [the Trump administration] have set an expectation on which they could not deliver.” Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called the situation a “slap in the face.” (RELATED: Global Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 2 Million)
HHS Spokesman Michael Pratt told the Post in an email that Operation Warp Speed “always intended to transition from holding second doses in reserve as manufacturing stabilizes and we gained confidence in the ability for a consistent flow of vaccines.”
State officials that expected a surplus of doses to arrive aren’t getting them, though. State and local officials tell the Post their allocations for next week have barely increased, if at all.
Some officials weren’t even aware of the truth of the situation until Friday, after reaching out to federal officials in search of answers, according to the Post. States are now left hanging, with many having expanded their pool of eligible vaccine recipients in anticipation of getting a surge in supply based on Azar’s comments.
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.
It appears now that no reserve exists. The Trump admin. must answer immediately for this deception. https://t.co/JJky0NcbPi
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) January 15, 2021
Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the Trump administration “must answer immediately” for the mishap.