Courtney Senechal, RN, prepares to administer the second Moderna vaccine for Covid-19 on January 19, 2021 at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Boston.
Jonathan Wiggs | Boston Globe | Getty Images
The Biden government is trying to figure out exactly what is holding up the national rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and looking for hiccups in the manufacturing process, suppliers and distribution networks, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
President Joe Biden has vowed to give 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, a task that would require the US to slightly accelerate current vaccination rates. However, some large states are telling the federal government that they are able to vaccinate even more people but are not receiving enough doses.
Walensky said the government is looking at what could restrict the supply of cans and is ready to implement the Defense Production Act, a warfare measure that will force US companies to make supplies that are deemed critical to national security to boost production.
“We work closely with Gen. [Gustave] Perna, with the manufacturers, with the states, to understand exactly where the supply is, “Walensky said Thursday on NBC’s” TODAY. “Perna was hired to handle the logistics for President Donald Trump’s vaccination program, Operation Warp Speed monitor.
“The president has a plan to use the Defense Production Act to see exactly what resources we need, either for vaccine manufacture or vaccine distribution or vaccine delivery. Do we need or do we need syringes?” do we need chemical products? “Walensky added.” We are working on answering these questions. We’ll be in the driver’s seat on the second day. “
In Biden’s Covid-19 Response Plan released Thursday, his government said it would instruct authorities to contact the Data Protection Authority if necessary to ensure supplies were in place for the pandemic response. This could include protective equipment such as masks, as well as consumables needed for Covid tests and for administering and manufacturing vaccines.
The Trump administration invoked the bill last year to get U.S. manufacturers to manufacture ventilators and other consumables, but was reluctant to use the Martial Law to procure consumables for vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer.
Even as the administration examines the supply chain to see if it can boost the production, distribution, and management of shots, Walensky still believes that some cans are not being used. Nearly 36 million doses had been given to states as of Wednesday, according to the CDC, but only about 16.5 million had actually been given.
Walensky said the government intends to open more vaccination centers in stadiums and gyms, as well as mobile vaccination units to get those doses in their arms. She said the government is working with states to adjust licensing requirements for the vaccine to match demand with supply.
The government is trying to get more people, such as dentists and veterinarians, to give them the vaccine, she said.
Dr. However, Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said that the appearance that many of the doses were not used was due to delays in reporting local data, rather than reflecting reality.
He said some cans may not have been used because they are specifically for federal programs like partnering with retail pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, which are not fully operational yet. But, he said, most states, counties, and hospitals are quick to manage the admissions they get and actually need more care from the federal government.
When asked about the long-term vaccination schedule, Walensky said the government is sticking to its goal of 100 million doses in the first 100 days, but acknowledged that “after 100 days, many Americans still need vaccines”.
She noted that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to receive data from Johnson & Johnson on the safety and effectiveness of their Covid vaccine soon. Public health officials have high hopes for this vaccine as it is a one-shot program that simplifies the process of distribution for the public. The vaccine has been shown to be safe in early clinical trials and appears to produce a promising antibody response. However, data from the phase 3 study have not yet been published.