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Wait for COVID-19 vaccine could stretch for months

Updated January 27, 2021 - 8:39 pm

WASHINGTON — People seeking a coronavirus inoculation may have to wait months to get one, as pharmaceutical companies work to manufacture vaccines amid high demand.

That was the upshot from the first press briefing of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team Wednesday.

“It will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” according to Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the team.

There is no coronavirus vaccine stockpile, said Slavitt, only a rolling two- to three-day supply. And parts of the country don’t have enough vaccine, while other places have more than they’ve been able to administer.

Washington has sent out 47 million doses to states so far and 24 million doses have been administered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nevada had administered slightly more than half of the 338,535 vaccines distributed to the Silver State as of Wednesday morning.

On Sunday, Gov. Steve Sisolak wrote to Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Norris W. Cochran to protest that Nevada “received the second-lowest number of vaccine doses per capita among all U.S. states so far.”

The White House has not responded to Review-Journal requests for comment.

But at the debut briefing, Slavitt did respond to a question about elected officials who have pushed the new president for more vaccines, such as Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“As for Gov. Hogan’s comments about wanting more vaccines, ‘We hear you, Gov. Hogan and we couldn’t agree more,’” Slavitt said. “I would love to tell you that we inherited a situation where there were stockpiles and stockpiles of vaccines sitting there. That is not the case. And it is our job to level with the governors and with the public.”

He added: “Having said that, what we have been able to do is make a commitment to increase by 16 percent the amount of vaccines going out and to provide three weeks of visibility which will allow (states) to plan better.”

Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, described the vaccine rollout as “a snarled mess around the country.”

Caplan voiced ample criticism of former President Donald Trump’s handling of vaccine distribution, but he noted other lessons to to be learned. “We spent a lot of time arguing about who should go first, but very little time arguing about logistics,” he said.

“COVID remains the biggest challenge for Biden,” Caplan noted.

As for Biden’s push to get out 600 million vaccines by the end of summer, Caplan said he wasn’t sure that many vaccines can be manufactured and distributed without too many rough patches. “They have to hope that the manufacturing goes smoothly, which I never do.”

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

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