The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted Sunday that the US doesn’t have enough COVID-19 vaccines to meet states’ needs, even as New York and Georgia desperately plead for more doses to inoculate their populations.
‘We don’t have as many doses as we would like now for states like New York, for other states claiming to have run out of the vaccine,’ Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Fox News Sunday.
‘Right now, that is the pressure point that I am feeling and by the end of March or so I really do hope our production scale has scaled up dramatically and that we actually have way more than we have right now,’ she added.
Her message comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend New York was running out of vaccines and as Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp also asked for more shots to keep up with the demand.
The vaccine is more dire than ever as the nation surpassed a grim milestone on Sunday with more than 25million COVID infections and more than 417,900 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who was sworn in Wednesday as the new director of the CDC, inheriting a massive public health crisis.
President Joe Biden has promised 100million doses of the vaccine in the first 100 days of his office, but that rate still isn’t fast enough to inoculate the entire country until 2022.
‘Yes, we have to go faster…I think the supply is going to be the most limiting constraint early on,’ Walensky said to Fox host Chris Wallace Sunday.
‘We’re really hoping that after the first 100 days we’ll have much more production, not just for these two vaccines, but we’re hopeful we’ll have another one from Johnson & Johnson in the weeks ahead and perhaps a fourth one coming down the pipeline. So we’re really hoping that we’ll have more vaccine and that will increase the pace at which we can do the vaccinations,’ she added.
When asked what the distribution problem Biden’s administration inherited from Trump’s handling of the pandemic, she said: ‘I would say one of the biggest problems right now is I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have.’
‘If I can’t tell that to you then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials. If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting, not just this week but next week and the week after, they can’t plan. They can’t figure out how many sites to roll out, how many vaccinators they need and how many appointments to make for the public,’ Walensky said.
‘The fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration and weeks into planning how much vaccine we have, just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with,’ she added.
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is one of the local leaders pleading for more vaccine doses for their states.
‘We need more. I think you’ve been hearing that from all the states as they’ve gotten ramped up, we’re getting to the point where we can’t really do more until we get more doses,’ he said on Fox News on Saturday.
‘Thankfully we’re almost done with our long-term facilities in the states so that’s gonna free up about 40,000 extra doses a week that we can continue giving to those over 65, which we expanded to that criteria before the CDC did, so we can continue to move the needle and get the vaccine out as soon as possible,’ he added.
On Friday Cuomo called on Biden ‘to do whatever he can to increase the supply’ saying the state’s vaccine stockpile was running so low it ‘may already be exhausted.’
The governor had warned Friday morning that the state had come to the end of its five-week supply of the vaccine but confirmed Saturday that New York’s week-six allocation was beginning to arrive and is being administered immediately.
‘The federal government allocates dosages by week,’ Cuomo explained.
‘Yesterday, we exhausted all five weeks allocation. We are now starting to receive week 6 allocations which trickle in during the week … they’re delivered by Washington to individual locations.
‘We’ll be getting 250,000 dosages in week 6,’ he continued, as he claimed that it could take up to 17 weeks to inoculate the seven million New Yorkers currently eligible for the vaccine unless the federal government began to send more.
His plea came as nearly a third of all New York City zip codes are currently reporting a COVID-19 positivity rate that exceeds 10 percent, in a dramatic increase in new cases since the holiday period.
As of Saturday, there are 54 out of 177 city zip codes with a rate over 10 percent.
In comparison, in the week before Thanksgiving, only 40 zip codes had a positivity rate that was over only four percent.
As of 11am Saturday morning, the state was left with just 309,000 doses of the vaccine.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also pleaded for more vaccine doses on Friday saying: ‘New York City vaccinated more people than the population of Salt Lake City last week.’
‘We’re burning through our supply. We need more doses IMMEDIATELY so we can protect the most vulnerable residents in our city. We need more doses so we can fight back,’ he added.
Joe Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services couldn’t give a straight answer on Sunday when asked if every American who wants a vaccine will be able to obtain one as nearly nine in 10 voters say the roll-out isn’t going well.
HHS secretary nominee Xavier Becerra dodged questions on the vaccine roll-out timeline on Sunday – casting doubt on whether the Biden administration will be able to follow through on its plan.
‘The Biden administration is saying the federal government will have a much heavier hand. So give that, what is the timeline, what is the goal for people to get fully vaccinated – anybody who wants it – to have one?’ CNN’s Dana Bash asked Becerra on ‘State of the Union’.
‘Well it’s a partnership hand, it won’t be a heavy hand because we have to work with our state and local partners and –’ Becerra started, but was cut off by Bash.
‘Can you give me a timeline?’ she interjected.
‘Well I first have to be sworn in to give you a timeline,’ Becerra dodged, before claiming the Biden administration will always give ‘straight-shot’ information.
A CDC tally updated at 1pm Saturday showed that 20,537,990 vaccines have been administered in the US to date – less than half of the more than 41.4 million already distributed to states.
When Biden took office on January 20, that tally stood at roughly 16.5 million, suggesting that his administration has thus far kept up with its plan to vaccinate one million people per day.
According to an NBC News poll, 11 percent of voters say the vaccine administration, from distribution to shot-in-arm, isn’t ‘going very well’.
Of the Americans who claim delivery of vaccinations is falling short of the goal post, 64 percent say the federal government is to blame.
The president’s team is putting the onus on predecessor Donald Trump for not developing a good plan to distribute vaccines after two different vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, were approved for emergency use by the FDA toward the end of his administration.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Marlene Lenthang