States Thought Trump Administration Was Releasing Extra Vaccine Doses, But It Isn't

States have been preparing to ramp up vaccination efforts after the Trump administration said it would release its reserve of Covid-19 vaccine doses, but two days later, governors were learning the promised reserve was not what they had hoped.

According to the Washington Post, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that the government would begin shipping vaccine doses from a stockpile, state and local health officials interpreted that to mean they would get additional doses of the vaccine that the government had been holding back.

“Because we now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve,” Azar said at a briefing on Tuesday. He also said that in the future, no doses would be kept in a stockpile and weekly shipments would contain doses to be used for first and second shots.

This led health officials to plan on expanding the pool of people who can receive the vaccine. But the vaccine doses in reserve were only booster shots for people who had already received the first of two shots needed to be vaccinated against Covid, senior administration officials told the New York Times. They were not, as states expected, for new first doses of the vaccine.

“[Thursday] night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said on Twitter.

“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,” Brown added. “This is a deception on a national scale.”

Distribution of the vaccine has been plagued with issues. States have accused the federal government of not supplying the funds and resources to distribute the doses they have, and the federal government has blamed the states for not being ready to administer the vaccine to large amounts of people. So far around 9.7 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, far short of the 20 million the administration promised by the end of 2020.

Trump’s vaccine distribution program, which he dubbed Operation Warp Speed, has gone so poorly that the incoming Biden administration announced Friday that the program will be reimagined and renamed, due to an “urgent need to address the failures of the Trump team approach to vaccine distribution,” incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Friday.

This news comes as the world passed the grave milestone of two million deaths from the virus. Meanwhile, the CDC has issued a dire warning about a new and more contagious variant of the virus that has reached the United States. And the CDC stressed that social distancing, as well as vaccines, are necessary to curb its spread. “Taking measures to reduce transmission now can lessen the potential impact of [the new strain] and allow critical time to increase vaccination coverage,” the agency wrote.

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