With only nine days left, it is unlikely the United States will meet the original goal of getting 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the year, members of Operation Warp Speed said Wednesday.
“This goal is unlikely to be met,” Moncef Slaoui, scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said during a media briefing on Wednesday. “The process of vaccinations – shots in the arms – is going slower than we thought it would be.”
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What Slaoui’s team can commit to is the number of doses to be distributed. “We will get the vaccines out as soon as they are available,” said Army General Gustave Perna, Chief of Operations Warp Speed during the briefing.
As of Wednesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the last two weeks.
The data only take into account shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine given so far, and probably delayed several days, as figures from hundreds of healthcare and long-term care facilities continue to be reported to the agency.
More than 9.4 million doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been distributed nationwide, according to the CDC.
It is unclear why there is such a large gap between the number of doses delivered to states and the actual shots, although the delay in providers reporting data to the CDC may be one of the reasons. While the distribution numbers include both Pfizer and Moderna, the managed Moderna shots are not yet counted, according to the CDC.
During the briefing, Perna said, “it’s about access to the vaccine when it arrives and is carried out.”
Perna expected the OWS team to have approx. 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses “awarded by the end of the month” but would not have delivered all until around the first week of January.
Predictably, the rollout has had “a few snafus,” Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota, during a live-streamed “Doc to Doc” interview with NBC News senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres on Wednesday.
Still, Poland gave the credit to the Operation Warp Speed team. “This is a massive logistical nightmare to try to plan,” he said.
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The vaccines are being rolled out as the nation continues to set records for both Covid-19 cases and related deaths. On Tuesday, the nation recorded a record 3,350 coronavirus deaths in a single day. More than 325,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States since the pandemic began, and more than 18 million people had been diagnosed.
Earlier Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that they will purchase an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, ensuring that any American wishing to be vaccinated can be in the summer.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Pfizer will manufacture and deliver up to 100 million doses of the vaccine in addition to the 100 million doses already purchased by the U.S. government.
“It is good news that there will be more vaccines available,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, co-chair of President-elect Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board on MSNBC on Wednesday. “We are moving towards our goal of getting to 1 million vaccinations a day.”
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