Politics

Biden preparing to accelerate distribution of COVID-19 vaccine upon taking office

President-Elect Joe Biden is taking steps to prepare to accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once he takes office. Aides say he will share more details on the plan to do so next week.

“The President-Elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now,” Biden spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement to CBS News.

The Trump administration pledged to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020; but, eight days into the new year, have only vaccinated over 5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker

The administration later walked back its original pledge, instead vowing at the end of December to “make vaccine doses available” to 20 million. According to the CDC, over 21 million doses have now been “distributed” — where those doses fall in the process of allocation to delivery is unclear. Allocated vaccines must still be shipped out to destinations picked by states, and in some cases redistributed by state and local health authorities before health care providers giving the shots can begin to prepare their first doses.

Officials have blamed limited resources, “miscommunication,” and even the weather for why the vaccine rollout has failed. “Essentially it’s been just twelve days,” Army General Gustave Perna, who is in charge of overseeing vaccine distribution for Operation Warp Speed, told reporters on December 30. “There’s two holidays, there’s been three major snow storms, there’s been everybody working through, you know, how to do the notification, how to make sure we’re administering it the right way, how to ensure that it stays in accordance with the cold chain.” 

Local health providers, responsible for the last mile of the vaccine’s delivery, are short-staffed and exhausted. Congress’ COVID-19 relief bill, tied up by Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept a bipartisan decision over stimulus checks, appropriated billions for vaccine development and distribution intended to help state and local health authorities. Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, however, told CBS News that the money had yet to reach frontline health providers by January 1. 

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have been surging. For the first time, the U.S. topped 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus, on Thursday breaking a record that had been set just a day earlier. The tally from Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. had 4,085 deaths from COVID-19 Thursday.

The U.S. also had nearly 275,000 new coronavirus cases. Over 365,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Below is a letter obtained by CBS News that was sent today to military and Trump administration officials by eight Democratic governors requesting that they accelerate the distribution of vaccines and not hold back doses in reserves while awaiting further shipments. CNN and the Washington Post first reported Mr. Biden’s plan to accelerate distribution of the vaccine.

“We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately,” the governors wrote.

Audrey McNamara contributed to this report.

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