Story at a glance
- President-elect Joe Biden will distribute remaining vaccine doses to states upon taking the oath of office.
- The Trump administration withheld them to ensure those who received initial doses can receive a second.
President-elect Joe Biden intends to make big changes in the federal COVID-19 vaccine distribution playbook, pledging to release every available dose of COVID-19 vaccines to states upon taking office.
Told to CNN by Biden’s transition team, the decision to release all of the federal government’s vaccine supply will initiate a wave of newly available vaccine doses to states to distribute, potentially increasing inoculations across the country.
The plan hinges on vaccine manufacturers to be able to keep up with demand. It’s placing responsibility on Pfizer and Moderna to keep up with supply levels to ensure people vaccinated with the first dose can receive the second within the recommended time frame of three weeks.
"The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans' arms now," TJ Ducklo, a spokesperson for Biden's transition, told reporters. "He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office on January 20th.”
Biden reportedly has confidence in Pfizer and Moderna to supply the government with additional doses as the ones in storage are released. He intends to continue using the Defense Production Act, which Trump invoked at the onset of the pandemic to manufacture personal protective equipment and eventually vaccines.
The Trump administration withheld additional vaccine doses to ensure Americans who received the first dose can have access to a second one. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines boast a high efficacy rate when two shots are administered.
"Operation Warp Speed is continuing to ensure second doses are available to vaccine administration sites, at appropriate intervals, as directed by jurisdiction leaders," a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told CNN.
This announcement comes on the heels of a letter from a coalition of governors addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and General Gustave Perna, the chief of Operation Warp Speed. In the letter they beseech the federal government for more vaccine doses.
“According to publicly reported information, the federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back by the administration for reasons unknown."
Unknown,” the letter read. “The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.”
The letter was signed by Govs. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Tony Evers (D-Wis.), Laura Kelly (D-Kansas), among others.