Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for shipment at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, United States, on December 20, 2020.
Paul Sancya | Reuters
The Biden government’s plan to release virtually every available dose of Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines to states shouldn’t cause supply problems later, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board said Thursday.
The advisory team has had numerous discussions with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, including about supply issues, said Dr. Celine Gounder, who sits on the panel and is an infectious disease specialist at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine.
Aside from unforeseen “Snafu products”, the Biden government is “confident” that there will be no problem getting people to get their second shots on time, she said.
“We’re not too worried about that,” Gounder told the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health during a webcast on Thursday afternoon. “If you look at the production schedule, they’re going to be releasing more and more doses over time, so things really open up significantly.”
Gounder’s comment comes hours before Biden announces his plan to vaccinate the U.S. population and end the pandemic that killed at least 385,503 Americans in almost a year. Criticizing the Trump administration’s strategy of introducing vaccines, Biden said at the current pace, “It will be years, not months, for the American people to be vaccinated.”
The pace of vaccination in the US is much slower than officials had hoped. As of 9:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, more than 29.3 million vaccine doses had been distributed in the United States, but just over 10.2 million vaccinations had been given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number is a far cry from the federal government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and 50 million Americans by the end of this month.
Some state governors, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have complained about the availability of vaccines, stating that the lack of doses has affected their ability to vaccinate people.
The Trump administration on Tuesday passed Biden’s plan to release most of the doses it had withheld for the second round of recording of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines.
General Gustave Perna, who oversees the logistics for President Donald Trump’s vaccination program, Operation Warp Speed, had previously said the provision of replacement doses of Covid was “good planning for the Army Officer General” to ensure the right people are available can get the shots if necessary.
To speed up the pace of vaccinations, the Trump administration also changed the way vaccine doses are assigned to states, and the CDC expanded vaccination eligibility to include anyone aged 65 and over, as well as those with comorbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Some public health experts have questioned whether companies can make more cans before people need their second shots.
Gounder said Thursday that the government still plans to hold “a small buffer” of cans in reserve.
“We’ll publish almost all of them [doses] with a little buffer left because we want to speed up the pace of vaccinations, “she said.” This is really a decision on how to manage care. It is not a recommendation about vaccine dose or schedule. “