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CDC: Only about 1 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccine

CDC: Only about 1 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccine
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Just over 1 million people in America have received a COVID-19 vaccine to date, a number that shows the Trump administration's goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of the year may be in jeopardy.

Federal officials on Wednesday told reporters that distribution has far exceeded the number of vaccinations, and the actual act of getting shots into arms has been slower than anticipated.

"The commitment that we make is to make vaccine doses available. Ultimately, I think that commitment is met," said Moncef Slaoui, chief science advisor of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed.

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However, he said the goal of 20 million vaccinations is “unlikely to be met.”

"Exactly how fast the ramp-up of immunizations, shots in arms, is slower than we thought it would be," Slaoui said, adding that "we’re here to help the states to accelerate appropriately."

Two vaccines are currently in circulation, one by Pfizer and BioNTech and another by Moderna. Both require two doses, separated by about three weeks, to be effective.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, the administration has distributed nearly 9.5 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to states and federal agencies over the past two weeks.  

The second doses will be sent in January.

The CDC said a large difference between the number of doses distributed and the number of doses administered "is expected at this point in the COVID vaccination program." 

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The agency said factors include a lag in reporting administered doses, the management of available vaccine stocks by jurisdictions, and the launch of the administration's program for vaccinating people in long-term care facilities.

The agency is also not yet tracking the number of doses of Moderna's vaccine that have been administered. Doses of that vaccine began arriving at more than 3,500 locations across the country this week. 

For next week, the administration has allocated 2.67 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 2 million of Moderna's. 

Yet even accounting for reporting delays, officials acknowledged there have been some missteps with the distribution process. 

Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operations officer for the Operation Warp Speed initiative, on Wednesday said officials are still "learning some things."

"As we figure out the pace, picking up vaccines and putting them in a box, making sure we do the right quality control, we've had to adjust our timelines," Perna said. 

"We have had a handful of packages that we tried to deliver that were not destined for the right place, but we captured them before they were dropped off and we rerouted them to the right place,” Perna said.  “And we had a couple of ... shipments that did not go out on the right day."

Still, Perna said deliveries to states are going out on schedule and he expects deliveries to improve. In total, Perna said that 15.5 million doses have already been allocated for states and jurisdictions to order. 

Perna said 7.9 million combined doses of Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna's vaccines were allocated for this week, and distribution is expected to be completed by the end of Thursday. 

The initial vaccinations come as the country heads into what is anticipated to be the most dangerous phase of the pandemic since its first outbreak at the beginning of this year. Experts predict there will be a spike in cases following Christmas, and the country is already routinely tallying 3,000 deaths from the coronavirus per day. 

More than 325,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the distribution missteps, CDC Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldRedfield says he thinks virus 'evolved' in lab to transmit better Ex-CDC director Redfield says he received death threats from fellow scientists over COVID-19 theory Fauci may have unwittingly made himself a key witness for Trump in 'China Flu' hate-speech case MORE praised the "early but important" milestone of 1 million vaccinations.

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"While we celebrate this historic milestone, we also acknowledge the challenging path ahead," Redfield said in a statement. "There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., but supply will increase in the weeks and months to come. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as large enough quantities are available."

Redfield also urged Americans to continue observing public health guidelines.

"Until every person in the U.S. is able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, we continue to ask Americans to embrace proven public health strategies including social distancing, good hand hygiene, and wearing a mask in public to reduce the risk of transmission and protect our communities," Redfield said.

Tal Axelrod contributed

Updated 6:31 p.m.