Fauci: We are not ‘starting from scratch’ on vaccine distribution
Anthony Fauci said the Biden administration is not starting from square one on its COVID-19 vaccine distribution, contradicting reports that Trump officials did not leave them with a plan.
“We’re certainly not starting from scratch, because there is activity going on in the distribution,” Fauci told reporters during an appearance in the White House briefing room.
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert indicated that the Trump administration left a blueprint, but Biden officials will build on it.
Fauci touted President Biden’s plans to open community vaccination centers, expand access through pharmacies and invoke the Defense Production Act in certain circumstances.
“We’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all,” he said.
“It’s taking what’s going on, but amplifying it in a big way,” Fauci added.
Fauci’s remarks follow criticism from Biden’s coronavirus team that former President Trump essentially left them no plan for coronavirus vaccine distribution.
“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients, the new coronavirus response coordinator, said on a call with reporters.
Anonymous Biden administration sources told CNN they were going to have to build an entire distribution system from scratch.
The rollout of vaccines in the waning days of the Trump administration was choppy and inconsistent. Trump appeared particularly disengaged from the coronavirus response near the end of his presidency, focused instead on trying to overturn the election results.
Operation Warp Speed was responsible for allocating and delivering vaccines to states, but the responsibility for the “last mile” of distribution, including getting shots into arms, was delegated to the states.
The pace of immunization is much slower than what former Trump officials promised last fall, with states and federal officials sniping over who shoulders the blame.
States say they did not receive enough resources when the vaccine rollout began, while Trump officials faulted micromanaging governors and rigid adherence to eligibility criteria.
But despite the complaints, states are still averaging close to 900,000 vaccinations a day.
Biden has promised 100 million vaccinations in his administration’s first 100 days, but many experts have noted that the pace will have to be much faster in order to reach herd immunity by the fall.