Biden plans to launch extra cans in violation of Trump coverage

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he announces his Justice Department nominees at his interim headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, United States, on January 7, 2020.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden plans to release more doses of the Covid vaccines after taking office. This is against the Trump administration’s policy of holding reserve cans to ensure there is enough for second shots and to address manufacturing issues.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine requires two shots 28 days apart. Officials in President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed ​​vaccination program have withheld half the available doses to ensure they can give the second doses on time.

Some public health professionals have spoken out in favor of releasing all available doses as there is evidence of protection against Covid-19 after the first dose and manufacturers are likely to be able to meet demand for second doses.

“The president-elect believes that we need to accelerate the spread of the vaccine while ensuring that the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports the immediate release of available doses and believes that the government should cut vaccine supplies so we can do this. ” Get more shots in the arms of Americans now, “TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden’s transition team, told NBC News.” He’ll be sharing more details next week on how his government will begin releasing available cans when he does takes office on January 20th. “

CNN reported the news first.

The initially slow adoption of vaccines, however, appears to have less to do with the distribution of doses across states than with the actual administration of vaccinations. As of Thursday, the United States had administered less than 30% of the doses already distributed to states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And officials, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have raised concerns that if the federal government doesn’t guarantee second doses, hospitals may set up their own dose reserve to ensure they have adequate supplies. That would further slow down the effort involved in administering shots.

Representatives from Biden did not return requests for comment on how increasing prevalence will expedite the management of the shots.

Proponents of higher doses say states are improving their ability to vaccinate residents. Some also point to the severity of the outbreak, which is killing more Americans today than ever before, as a reason to get as many doses in the public as possible. Still others point to new variants of the virus that have emerged as a threat and increase the urgency to vaccinate the public quickly.

Michael Pratt, spokesman for Operation Warp Speed, stressed that people who received the first dose of either vaccine should get their second dose on time. He added that delaying the second dose was “contrary to the FDA-approved label”.

“If President-elect Biden suggests making the maximum number of doses available to ensure a second dose of vaccine is available when the patient shows up, then it is already happening,” Pratt said in a statement to CNBC. “When managing the second dose, it was always about ensuring the availability of the supply chain.”

A plea from the governors

The policy change comes after a group of eight governors, all Democrats, wrote and wrote to Alex Azar, Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, and General Gustave Perna, who oversees the logistics for Operation Warp Speed they called for “reserved” doses of the vaccines to be distributed to states that are ready to distribute them.

“Our states stand ready to work around the clock to speed up the spread, get more shots in the arms and save more American lives. General Perna, as you said, ‘a vaccine on a shelf.” stands is ineffective ‘”Governors wrote in the letter. “We couldn’t agree more with you. So we are asking for your help now. If we work together, we can end this pandemic and return to a normal life sooner.”

Operation Warp Speed ​​has argued that there is a need to withhold some available doses of the vaccines to ensure that anyone who gets their first dose gets their booster shot on time. In the event of manufacturing problems, the officials also keep a few cans in reserve.

Biden’s advisors previously stated that he intends to implement the Defense Manufacturing Act, which will allow the president to force companies to prioritize manufacturing for national security in order to advance vaccine manufacturing.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration under Trump’s administration, described Biden’s policy change as “a prudent move that will help expand access to Covid vaccines to high-risk patients at a time when the epidemic worsens” . Gottlieb is also on Pfizer’s board of directors. Company officials have not returned CNBC’s request for comment.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press last weekend that the non-guarantee of a second dose “is against science.” However, a Biden interim official said the incoming government was confident that by applying the Defense Production Act it could provide all second doses.

Off to a slow start

The initial rollout of the vaccines was slower than expected, and the US failed to meet its December target of vaccinating 20 million Americans as federal officials had aimed at.

Senior health officials including Fauci and Dr. However, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, have announced that the pace is expected to accelerate this month. The rollout has already shown some signs of a slow increase in speed.

The US fired more than 600,000 shots in a 24-hour period, the CDC reported Thursday. According to the agency, this is the highest value within a day to date. According to the data, more than 21.4 million doses have been given, but only 5.9 million have been given.

Amid criticism of a slow initial rollout, HHS officials are now urging states to move beyond the first level of prioritization. Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first, according to the CDC. But HHS Secretary Alex Azar said earlier this week that states should open up to older and more vulnerable Americans if that would accelerate the pace of rollout.

In addition to the pressure to vaccinate quickly, there is the arrival of a new strain of the virus. The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom, has now been found in at least seven states. While it doesn’t seem to make people more sick, CDC officials believe it can spread more easily. That could make the outbreak worse and quickly overwhelm hospitals, CDC officials said last week.

– CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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