Story at a glance

  • On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration would no longer be holding back the second of two doses and recommended states broaden vaccination eligibility.
  • But a report from The Washington Post said the Trump administration already released reserves in late December as production was ramping up, meaning the limited supply of vaccines currently being distributed to states will not increase as anticipated following Azar’s announcement.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said she was told states will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines because there are no federal reserve doses.

A new report says that while the Trump administration announced it was releasing a stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine initially held for second shots to accelerate lagging vaccination efforts nationwide, no such reserve existed. 

On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Alex Azar said the administration would no longer be holding back the second of two doses and recommended states open vaccination eligibility to everyone age 65 and older, as well as adults with comorbidities that put them at risk of severe illness. The Trump administration had previously been stockpiling half of available doses to ensure those who received the first jab would have access to the required second dose several weeks later. 


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Health officials said they were confident in the vaccine supply chain so doses no longer had to be reserved. The announcement had states readying for an increase in vaccine supply to begin vaccinating larger swaths of the public. 

But a report from The Washington Post Friday said the Trump administration already released reserves in late December as production was ramping up, meaning the limited supply of vaccines currently being distributed to states will not increase as anticipated following Azar’s announcement. HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Changing America. 

On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said she was told states will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines because there are no federal reserve doses. The governor said General Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed told her the news Thursday. 

“I am demanding answers from the Trump administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences,” Brown tweeted

“This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, all of us, were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us,” she said. 

Oregon Health Director Patrick Allen said he sent a letter to Azar demanding an explanation, according to the Post. 

“If true, this is extremely disturbing, and puts our plans to expand eligibility at grave risk,” Allen wrote. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also said the Trump administration needed to answer immediately for “this deception.” 

“Governors were told repeatedly by [HHS] there was a strategic reserve of vaccines, and this week, the American people were told it’d be released to increase supply of vaccine. It appears now that no reserve exists,” Inslee tweeted Friday. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday noted that it received about 50,000 fewer doses from the federal government this week. 

“Our constraint is the federal supply,” Cuomo said. “They increased the eligibility, they did not increase the supply.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 million doses have been administered in the U.S. with more than 31 million distributed to states.


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Published on Jan 15, 2021