Despite the Trump administration’s pledge to administer enough doses of the coronavirus vaccine for 20 million Americans by the end of the year, the United States has only given 2.1 million people shots with just two full days remaining before the self-imposed deadline. According to one analysis from NBC News, at the current rate of vaccination, it would take ten years for the inoculations to reach a level at which the pandemic can be controlled — a far cry from the goal of Operation Warp Speed to vaccinate 80 percent of Americans by late June.
On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden condemned the Trump administration for the slow rollout amid an unrelenting pandemic winter — that same day 3,283 Americans died from COVID (even with the holiday delays in reporting). Biden vowed that when he is president, he will “move heaven and Earth” to end the pandemic. Specifically, he said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to boost the manufacturing of vaccines, personal-protective equipment, and tests. “After ten months of the pandemic, we still don’t have enough testing,” he said. “It’s a travesty.”
Biden also reiterated his pledge to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days, while acknowledging the lofty goal. “This is going to be the greatest operational challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation but we are going to get it done. It’s going to take a vast new effort that is not yet underway.”
The vaccination effort will also be aided by the second stimulus bill, which provides $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines and $8 billion for vaccine distribution. Since October, state health officials have said they would need that second sum to store and administer vaccine doses, though they had only received $340 million from the federal government.
While the Trump administration’s testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, said Tuesday that he expects the process to become smoother in the coming weeks, the roadblocks already in place will continue to stymie the effort. Federal policy will be of limited effect in a byzantine system in which states decide shot priority (or ignore their own recommendations) and a privatized health-care system limits coordination — all amid a shortage of necessary doses.