Biden Announces Increase in COVID-19 Vax Distribution

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WASHINGTON — President Biden promised Tuesday to rapidly increase the number of COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., saying that “100 million shots in 100 days is not the endpoint; it’s just the start.”

“We’re not stopping there,” Biden said in an address from the State Dining Room at the White House. “The end goal is to beat COVID-19. And the way we do that is to get more people vaccinated, which means we have to be ready, after we hit the … goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.” He noted that 100 million shots doesn’t mean that 100 million people will be fully vaccinated, since the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use each require two shots per person.

Biden said his administration recently discovered that “the vaccine program is in worse shape than we anticipated or expected.” But after reviewing what was happening at current vaccine manufacturers, “I can announce that we will increase overall weekly vaccination distribution to states, tribes, and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses, starting next week. That’s an increase of 1.4 million doses per week.”

In addition, the administration is now negotiating for another 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine — “200 million more doses than the federal government had previously secured,” said Biden. “Not in hand yet, but ordered.” The additional doses are expected this summer, and increases the total vaccine doses ordered by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million, enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer, he added.

During a press conference prior to the speech, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the administration’s efforts to get a handle on how many vaccines had been distributed. “We monitor updates on a daily basis through [the] Tiberius [federal data base] and multiple systems that have available information on vaccine numbers that are distributed to states — what states have received, what they have distributed,” she said. “And we have been connecting all the dots to ensure we have our best understanding of where the holdups are … But we’re continuing to dig in every day on what the issues are: Why isn’t the vaccine getting out to states? What is the holdup with vaccinators? Why aren’t there more vaccine sites that are getting the supply they need?”

Fighting COVID-19 is a “wartime effort,” the president said in his speech. “I think it’s 411,000 or 412,000 have died in one year of this pandemic — more than all the people who died in all of World War II. This is a wartime undertaking; it’s not hyperbole.” And because of that, Biden said he is using his authority under the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of vaccine and protective equipment, including syringes, needles, gloves, swabs, and masks. “We’ve already identified suppliers, and we’re working with them to move our plan forward.”

Biden said he hoped that by the end of summer, people would tell him there were too many vaccines and too much equipment left over. “I hope that becomes the problem, rather than we somehow find interruptions in supply or access,” he said.

The White House also is working to increase transparency for the states, cities, and tribes, Biden continued. “This is something we’ve heard over and over again from both Democrats and Republicans, state and local leaders: they didn’t know what they had to plan on. They need to know what the order is going to be.” He pledged to let state and local officials know 3 weeks in advance how much vaccine they were going to receive. “This is going to help make sure governors, mayors, and local leaders have greater certainty around supply so they can carry out their plans to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

The administration also has formed a Health Equity Task Force “to ensure that equity is at the core of everything we do in urban and rural communities alike, to make sure those people most significantly damaged have access,” the president said. “We have to change. We have move in a direction for those communities that are hard to get to.”

However, because it will take a few months to get everyone vaccinated, “in the next few months, masks — not vaccines — are the best defense against COVID-19,” he said. “Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 50,000 lives who otherwise will pass away if we don’t wear these masks.”

But despite those efforts, “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said. “The death toll, experts tell us, is likely to top 500,000 by the end of next month — February — and cases will continue to mount. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around.” In the end, though, “we’re going to get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.”

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    Joyce Frieden oversees MedPage Today’s Washington coverage, including stories about Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, healthcare trade associations, and federal agencies. She has 35 years of experience covering health policy. Follow

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