The US vaccinated 1 million folks with a aim of 20 million in December
Just over 1 million people in the U.S. received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday morning, a far cry from the federal government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of the year.
With two emergency Covid-19 vaccines approved, the biggest hurdle to ending the pandemic in the US is getting the doses to the roughly 331 million Americans across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1,008,025 shots had been administered by 9:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
That’s about 19 million doses, falling short of previous December forecasts, and officials have a little over a week – about 8 days – to try to fill that void. The US would have to vaccinate more than 2.1 million people a day by December 31 to reach its goal. Two vaccines – from Pfizer and Moderna – have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, and the US has shipped 9,465,725 doses nationwide, according to CDC data.
The CDC’s data on vaccine distribution comes from state, territorial, and local health agencies, as well as five federal agencies. As a result, there may be additional delays in reporting data from these locations.
The vaccines are viewed by investors and policymakers as a solution to getting the US economy going again as the pandemic ravages every state, overwhelming hospitals and turning businesses upside down. The US has the worst outbreak in the world, with more than 18.2 million cases and at least 322,849 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Earlier on Wednesday, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, who on Tuesday together with Dr. Anthony Fauci had received his first vaccine against Covid that he is hoping for Americans if the US government does not achieve its vaccination target by the end of this month. “I will understand that this is a logistical challenge of enormous proportions.”
“In all honesty, I think it’s pretty amazing that it’s been going as fast as it ever was. It’s only been 10 days since the FDA first approved the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine, and then a week later for Moderna,” Collins told CNN. “I think the sales effort went through [Operation] Warp speed and then working across the states is pretty amazing. “
Later in the day, federal health officials said vaccine distribution had been slower than US officials had hoped.
“Just like how fast the start of vaccinations and gun shots is slower than we expected,” said Dr. Moncef Slaoui, tsar of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine, told reporters during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “And as I told you, we are here to help states accelerate appropriately,” he said, adding that the target of 20 million vaccinations “is unlikely to be met.”
Global health experts had said distributing the vaccines to around 331 million Americans within a few months could prove to be much more complicated and chaotic than originally thought. In addition to making adequate doses, states and territories also need enough needles, syringes, and bottles to complete vaccinations. People also need training in the storage and administration of the vaccines. For example, Pfizer’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Public health officials previously insisted that the vaccine rollout went smoothly overall, save for a few unfortunate mishaps. The U.S. had its first hiccups last week when about 3,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine that traveled to California and Alabama had to be quarantined and returned to the company after the vials somehow got too cold. It’s unclear why the temperature dropped, but Pfizer said in a statement that it was able to intercept the shipments and “seamlessly trigger subsequent delivery to these customers.”
States have also reported confusion over vaccination schedules. In the past few days, state officials said they learned that their second shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine would be smaller than expected or delayed. Army General Gustave Perna, who oversees the logistics for Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccination program, apologized for the confusion last week, saying it was a “planning mistake”.
On Wednesday, Perna also said some shipments of cans went to the wrong destinations and others went on the wrong day.
“We had a handful of packages that we were trying to deliver that weren’t for the right location, but we captured them before they were dropped off and we redirected them to the right location,” he said. “And we had a couple … shows that didn’t go out on the right day.”
Soumi Saha, pharmacist and vice president of advocacy for Premier, a consultancy that works with thousands of hospitals and nursing homes, told CNBC last month that vaccine distribution was “whole new territory” for healthcare systems. “This is a brand new logistical challenge to distribute and get this vaccine to the right place while maintaining the integrity of the product,” she said.
Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, said the rapid expansion of vaccinations to pharmacies, hospitals and primary care networks was “extremely impressive.”
“It looks like one of the bigger hurdles to vaccination efforts in the US will be hesitation, while elsewhere in the world the hurdles will be access to vaccines,” he told CNBC on Wednesday.