Alex M. Azar II, Opinion contributor
Published 6:55 p.m. ET Jan. 4, 2021 | Updated 7:10 p.m. ET Jan. 4, 2021
Opposing View: We all know that vaccines sitting on shelves or in refrigerators isn’t the end of the effort; shots in arms — in millions of arms — are what’s needed now.
Operation Warp Speed’s unprecedented partnership between the federal government and the private sector produced 20 million first doses of FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine for jurisdictions to order by the end of 2020 — with second doses on hand to ship at the right time.
This delivers on our projection to have enough doses by the end of the year for 20 million Americans, and it is a historic accomplishment. But we all know that vaccines sitting on shelves or in refrigerators isn’t the end of the effort; shots in arms — in millions of arms — are what’s needed now.
The federal government has already provided considerable assistance to state, local, territorial and tribal public health jurisdictions: a federally created vaccination playbook, provided in September, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used to work with states on their vaccination plans nearly every day since then; the kits with needles, syringes, swabs and personal protective equipment needed to administer the vaccine; and $340 million for COVID-19 vaccine planning, with billions more in the relief bill the president just signed.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool photo)
More than 4.5 million vaccinations have been reported into our central tracking system. We know the number is greater, but there will always be a lag between doses allocated and doses ordered and delivered; between doses delivered and doses administered; and between doses administered and vaccinations reported. We are fully committed to working with everyone involved to keep these lag times as short as possible.
We are three weeks since the first vaccine doses showed up at administration sites. We’ve heard from states that the recent holidays and snowstorms slowed their plans for vaccinations. We know that jurisdictions share our sense of urgency in administering vaccines, and we are closely looking at jurisdiction-level data to understand any challenges and already looking at ways we could support administering vaccinations. CDC experts are encouraged with the progress so far, and the plans that states developed with our support show that the rate of vaccinations will increase.
Our manufacturing projections show that we are on track to have 200 million doses available by the end of the first quarter, with the possibility of more if another vaccine receives Food and Drug Administration authorization. This is a projection, made based on the best available data we have.
We would much rather provide the most accurate projections we have, with some chance we could miss them, than set intentionally pessimistic goals just to be sure we can say they were met. Real transparency is what the American people deserve, and it’s what we’ll continue to deliver.
Alex M. Azar II is the secretary of Health and Human Services.
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