With only nine days to go, it’s unlikely the U.S. will meet the original goal of having 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the year, members of Operation Warp Speed said Wednesday.
“That objective is unlikely to be met,” Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said during a media briefing Wednesday. “The process of immunizations — shots in arms — is happening slower than we thought it would be.”
What Slaoui’s team can commit to is the number of doses to be distributed. “We’re getting the vaccines out as fast as they are available,” Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said 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 past two weeks.
The data only account for shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine given so far, and likely lag by several days, as numbers from hundreds of health care and long-term care facilities continue to be reported to the agency.
More than 9.4 million doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been distributed nationwide, according to the CDC.
It’s unclear why there’s such a large gap between the number of doses delivered to states and actual shots given, although the lag in providers reporting the data to the CDC may be one reason. Also, while the distribution numbers include both Pfizer and Moderna, the administered Moderna shots aren’t yet counted, according to the CDC.
During the briefing, Perna said, “it’s about access to the vaccine when it arrives and execution.”
Perna anticipated the OWS team would have about 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses “allocated by the end of the month,” but would not have all delivered until about the first week of January.
Predictably, the rollout has had “a few snafus,” said 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 Wednesday.
Still, Poland gave 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 rolling out as the nation continues to set records for both Covid-19 cases and related deaths. On Tuesday, the nation logged a record 3,350 deaths linked to the coronavirus in a single day. More than 325,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the U.S. since the pandemic began, and more than 18 million people had been diagnosed.
Earlier Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it will buy an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, ensuring that every American who wants to be vaccinated can be by summer.
The Department of Health and Human Services said that Pfizer will manufacture and deliver up to 100 million doses of the vaccine, on top of the 100 million doses already purchased by the U.S. government.
“It is good news there will be more vaccine available,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a co-chair of President-elect Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, said on MSNBC Wednesday. “We’re heading to our target of getting to 1 million vaccinations a day.”