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Senate Democrats demand Trump address COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Senate Democrats demand Trump address COVID-19 vaccine distribution
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Democrats is demanding that the Trump administration provide states with a plan of action that includes new resources and guidance "to fix the significant failures of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution" rollout.

In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the Democrats said the country's vaccination effort is moving too slowly and blamed the administration’s failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan.

"With our health system and economy in crisis, and millions of lives at stake, we cannot afford for this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far.," the letter said.

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The letter was led by Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Justice watchdog to probe whether officials sought to interfere with election Capitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? MORE (D-N.Y.) and Health Committee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-Wash.) and signed by 43 other Democrats.

"Despite months to plan, the Trump Administration has failed to meet these needs or deliver promised doses to jurisdictions, and as a result of this lack of planning, only 36 percent of distributed vaccines have been administered," the Democrats wrote. 

The administration pledged to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020, but efforts have fallen far short of that goal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 9 million people have received their first dose, and nearly 25.5 million doses have been distributed.

President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE has said states need to work better and faster to administer all available doses, but the Democrats said states have been set up for failure by a lack of resources and planning from the federal government.

The Democrats said the administration should have issued and implemented a comprehensive national vaccines plan, including detailed guidance on personal protective equipment usage, vaccine administration prioritization, and best practices for taking the vaccine from distribution to administration.

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President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE has pledged 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, but there's a concern the current administration's failures could hamper that effort.

With only nine days left in the current administration, the Democrats said they hope recently announced efforts to scale up vaccinations in pharmacies will help, but much more resources are needed. 

"Federal responsibility does not end with delivery of vaccines to states, as you have suggested. Vaccine administration must be a close partnership between the federal government and state, Tribal, and local governments, with the federal government stepping up to ensure that all needs are met," the Democrats wrote.