Analysis

Here Is What’s Going On With The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

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President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plan to roll out coronavirus vaccinations once in office, which includes getting more people vaccinated, making more vaccination sites and increasing the supply of vaccines.

Biden’s plan is ambitious and seeks to smooth out current kinks in the system that Biden blamed on President Donald Trump. Despite Biden referring to Trump’s coronavirus vaccine rollout plan as a “dismal failure,” most of the blame lies on logistical and state-wide issues, not Trump.

Biden has pledged to get 100 million arms injected with the vaccine within 100 days, according to CNN.

“This is a time to set big goals to pursue them with courage and conviction, because the health of the nation is literally at stake,” Biden said, CNN reported.

Biden’s original plan as of December 2020 was to distribute 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days, meaning that only 50 million people would be vaccinated since the coronavirus vaccine is administered with two shots, according to CNN.

Recently, however, Biden has set new goals for his administration which includes getting 100 million shots into the arms of Americans, according to the Associated Press (AP). It is unclear whether Biden’s team has a plan to ensure that if 100 million Americans get the coronavirus vaccine whether they will have access to the second shot. The administration has also not explained whether part of the 100 millions arms include those who may have already received the first shot.

The media and Democrats have called Trump’s rollout disastrous, citing low levels of vaccines actually administered.

Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that said the U.S. “cannot afford for this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far.”

“The metric that matters, and where we are clearly moving too slowly, is vaccines in arms,” the letter, which was obtained by Politico, said.

Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said the federal government didn’t help the states enough in their vaccine rollout plans.

“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable.”

Vanity Fair called the vaccine rollout an “absolute mess.”

The U.S., however, has already distributed more than 31 million vaccines since distribution first began on Dec. 14, according to the CDC. This means that since vaccine distribution began, the U.S. has been distributing an average of  approximately 865,585 vaccines daily.

Although Biden has called Trump’s rollout a “failure,” if the U.S. keeps up on its current distribution trajectory that began under Trump, then Biden’s original goal of distributing 100 million vaccines within his first 100 days would be more than doable.

Overall, however, approximately only a little over 12 million doses of the roughly 31 million distributed have been administered, meaning around 19 million doses have been distributed but not administered, according to the CDC.

Healthcare workers line up in cars as a Covid-19 mass-vaccination takes place at Dodger Stadium on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan / POOL / AFP) (Photo by IRFAN KHAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Healthcare workers line up in cars as a Covid-19 mass-vaccination takes place at Dodger Stadium on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan / POOL / AFP) (Photo by IRFAN KHAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

One reason that 18 million vaccines were not administered is that the federal government was said to be keeping a stockpile of second doses. Recently, the federal government announced that they would be releasing doses kept in a “physical reserve” to increase supply, according to CNBC. The doses were kept in a reserve to ensure that those who have received their first vaccine shot could get the second dose, which is needed for optimal efficacy. (RELATED: Cuomo Floats Buying Vaccines Directly From Pfizer In Defiance Of Federal Government)

The Washington Post reported that the stockpile of second-doses was non-existent, and Democrats blamed Trump for an alleged poor vaccine distribution system. The Post reported that the government stopped stockpiling second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the end of December.

Azar announced Friday that there wasn’t an actual reserve stockpile because the Trump administration was confident enough in production that they didn’t feel it was necessary.

While there may not have been a stockpile, a Pfizer spokeswoman confirmed Friday that the company was having no issues with shortages and that they had plenty of doses available, directly contradicting The Post’s story, according to Reuters.

“Operation Warp Speed has asked us to start shipping second doses only recently,” the spokeswoman said, according to the report. “As a result, we have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipment to the US.”

Another reason nearly 18 million vaccines have been distributed but not administered is due to statewide issues, not issues stemming from the Trump administration.

The Trump administration had allowed states to determine how they want to roll out their supply of the vaccine, according to Politico.

The CDC issued eligibility guidance for states to follow when deciding who could get the vaccine, though states could ultimately make their own decision. In an effort to pick up the pace, the CDC recently issued new guidelines for state leaders, expanding the eligibility age to everyone 65 and older as well as those with serious conditions, according to CNBC.

In New York City, for example, large vaccinations sites have been slow to open, according to The New York Times (NYT). Instead, hospitals have administered most of the first doses. Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio even blamed the state for the city’s slow vaccine rollout, saying the state needed to provide “guidance in terms of categories of people” that could get the vaccine, according to the report.

The state was even wasting vaccines until Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded the eligibility group to include roughly 3 million more people, the NYT reported. Cuomo initially stuck to guidelines that prioritized health care workers, nursing home employees and group home workers, according to the report. After facing criticism from de Blasio and others, however, Cuomo opened the eligibility pool to other essential workers.

Meanwhile in California, the state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout has been slowed down due to technical problems with software that helps coordinate vaccine distribution, according to the Los Angeles Times.

For example, PrepMod and COVIDReadi registration site, which health care providers use to enroll to receive and administer the vaccine, have been “fraught with technological problems,” Dr. Michael Wasserman, the medical director of the Eisenberg Village nursing home said, according to the report. The issues prevent people from signing up to get vaccinated and don’t provide customer service guidance, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Another issue is lack of manpower to administer the vaccine in California, according to the NYT.

“The same institutions that are trying to manage testing, contact tracing and support for people are the same people who are managing the distribution of the vaccine,” Jonah Frohlich, a San Francisco-based health care consultant with Manatt Health Strategies said, according to the report.

In West Virginia, however, vaccinations have been administered relatively smoothly, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Rather than use the federal distribution program which relies on CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccine to long-term care residents, the state has opted to give vaccines to 250 smaller or independent pharmacies to administer the vaccine to patients, according to the report.

Biden’s transition team has announced plans that would likely mitigate the failures some states have experienced, such as creating 100 federal centers to help administer the vaccine, according to CNBC. Biden’s plan will also encourage states to expand their vaccine eligibility and increase the supply of equipment used to administer the vaccine like syringes, needles and glass vials, according to the report.