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Nevada officials lobby feds for remedies to vaccine shortages

Updated January 27, 2021 - 6:39 am

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a plan to supply 600 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of summer — enough to inoculate almost the entire country.

The announcement comes after members of Nevada’s congressional delegation increased pressure on the new administration to streamline the process of delivering vaccines to the Silver State.

“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” Biden warned, adding that the death toll could reach 500,000 in February. As of Monday, the U.S. death toll exceeded 420,000.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get it done, but a lot of things can go wrong along the way,” Biden said.

Without mentioning former President Donald Trump by name, Biden blamed his predecessor for not cooperating with his transition team and leaving a vaccine program that was in worse shape than anticipated.

But members of Nevada’s delegation urged officials to fix the problem, not the blame.

“If it doesn’t get fixed, it’s going to get worse,” said Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who blamed a cumbersome bureaucratic process for creating a delay in delivery of vaccines. “Clearly, there are some things that need to be streamlined.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and other governors, including Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland, have called on federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to explain shortages to the states and clarify distribution methods of vaccines.

Nevada ranks as one of the lowest in allocation of vaccines. That prompted Sisolak to go public with his complaints this week.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, the Biden administration planned to deploy 400 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the summer. But the administration added 200 million more doses to that figure, for a total of 600 million.

With more expected vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, a focus on federal leadership and a determination to give states “a reliable three-week forecast” for what they can order in weeks ahead, Biden offered, the country should be in better shape.

Calls to the White House

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., have called the White House and Biden administration officials seeking immediate remedies to the supply shortage.

The CDC ranked Nevada and South Carolina as the two worst states for administering doses, or “shots in arms,” following distribution. But roughly 18 states were ranked low on administering doses.

Nevada lawmakers dispute the ranking, blaming a lag in reporting for Nevada’s low ranking, which is actually several percentage points above the CDC median ranking for states. And Nevada contends it has been allocated 9,316 doses per 100,000 people, compared with 10,000 per 100,000 delivered to other states.

Cortez Masto said she is trying to set up a meeting between federal officials and the state to address those concerns.

“High demand for the vaccine and little federal guidance by the previous administration have strained systems across the country,” she said in a statement.

The Trump administration distribution system was “a dismal failure,” Titus said, “and Nevadans are suffering the consequences.”

Titus, one of the first congressional supporters of Biden’s presidential campaign, said she is talking with administration officials to ramp up distribution. “I will work directly with the new team to ensure Nevada gets its fair share of doses,” she said.

Nationally, news reports about states lagging in their vaccine distribution and concern that the supply of vaccines will not meet demand found 65 percent of adults saying the federal government is doing a fair to poor job delivering doses to the states, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted Jan. 11-18.

Nearly the same number of adults, 61 percent, say the states are doing a fair to poor job distributing vaccines to people in their states, according to the poll.

The poll of 1,563 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Problem needs solving

“I know there’s an addiction that everything’s political these days, but this is just a problem that needs solving,” Amodei said. “We don’t need to blame Joe Biden or Donald Trump, or you know, the governor of whatever state depending on what your politics are.”

Amodei said there were no surplus doses sitting on a shelf in Nevada. Unused doses are accounted for by people who received a first vaccination and will need a second.

Amodei said manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna were producing a sufficient number of vaccines to meet goals, with another being developed by Johnson & Johnson likely to be available soon.

Walgreens, Smith’s groceries and pharmacies, health care providers and clinics and the Department of Veterans Affairs are distributing the vaccines throughout Nevada, although the Veterans Administration has its own protocols and network.

Amodei laid the blame on the bureaucratic web that requires those administering the vaccines in rural and urban areas to calculate how much vaccine will be needed, submit it to the state, which then submits it to the federal government, where officials weigh the request and send a number of doses that may or may not meet demand.

The congressman said the roughly 10-day process of requesting vaccines and then having it shipped is “a helluva lot of steps over several days.”

“It’s definitely bureaucratic,” Amodei added.

Working to get more

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said she is “working with the governor’s office to find ways to increase access to vaccines at the federal level.”

The coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in December included $9 billion for the CDC and the states for vaccine distribution. Of that, Nevada is to receive $47 million, Rosen said.

Governors have complained that vaccines expected during the Trump administration never materialized. Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services under Trump, blamed states for distribution and administration of doses of vaccines.

“I’m hopeful that the Biden administration will implement their distribution strategy and quickly address concerns levied by the state,” Rosen said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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