President-elect Joe Biden has outlined a plan to accelerate the delivery of vaccines to Americans, calling the rollout overseen by President Donald Trump a “dismal failure thus far.”
The rollout of vaccination programs across the world has accelerated hopes that the end of the coronavirus pandemic is within sight.
But before that end can be realized, more grim news is on the way for the United States.
Experts have projected that the US remains on course to see some 500,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus by the end of February, with the acceleration of deaths only expected to slow down sometime in March of this year.
The projections make for sobering reading at a time when there are already more than 400,000 American who have lost their lives due to the pandemic.
Experts believe that a renewed effort to push forward with a nationwide vaccination program will assist in preventing many more deaths. Making this rollout a success, however, is easier said than done.
Vaccine distribution in the US remains well behind schedule under the Trump administration, which had aimed to vaccinate some 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. As of mid-January, only nine million Americans had been inoculated.
The first phase of the vaccination rollout in the US has gotten off to a rocky start.
Not only have far fewer Americans been vaccinated than originally anticipated, but health workers have complained that some syringes distributed by the Trump administration’s vaccination program, entitled “Operation Warp Speed,” have forced them to dispose of excess doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.
Officials have stated that some syringes are too small to extract the full dose available from the Pfizer vaccine, meaning that excess vaccine is going to waste.
The rollout in the US has also been incredibly uneven. California has so far administered only 1.4 million doses of the more than 3.5 million they’ve been given. California officials have since had to ease guidelines to increase eligibility for the vaccination to expand its rollout.
Meanwhile, North Dakota, with a population of around 760,000, has administered more than 61,000 of the 68,000 doses they’ve received.
Amid these failures, the Trump administration announced on January 12 that it would reverse course and begin releasing federal reserves of coronavirus vaccines, a plan first announced by President-elect Biden.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had announced that the administration would release millions of doses that had been held in reserve to improve the rollout program. However, governors of various states across the country who were eager to accept additional vaccines later reported that no such federal stockpile existed.
Given these difficulties, it is no surprise that President-elect Biden has castigated the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout as a “dismal failure thus far.”
Unfortunately, additional failures appear to be on their way. Experts, including the incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), believe that in February the US death toll from the pandemic is likely to surpass 500,000.
Amid this dire news, Biden has injected renewed energy into America’s vaccination rollout.
Announcing a plan in January to speed up the vaccination program, Biden stated that “our plan is as clear as it is bold.”
“Get more people vaccinated for free. Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get the shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible,” Biden said in remarks on January 14.
Biden also plans to have 100 million coronavirus vaccinations completed in his first 100 days as president, a goal that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s lead COVID-19 medical adviser, claims to be “absolutely a doable thing.”
Biden’s vaccination plan will coincide with a further US$1.9 trillion in coronavirus stimulus for the economy, which Biden claims will help combat what is presently “a crisis of deep human suffering” in the US.
Much of this stimulus will be directed toward a national vaccination program to hire health care workers, expand testing and more.
To improve the rollout of vaccinations, Biden’s administration plans to expand the number of federal vaccination sites and encourage states to open up vaccinations to health care workers and care home residents.
The administration also aims to use federal funds to create vaccination centers in communities, including mobile vaccination clinics, as well use the Defense Production Act to increase the speed vaccines are manufactured.
Commentators have argued that the current difficulties seen in the US vaccination rollout emanate from a lack of federal leadership, which has made Biden’s plan “maddeningly obvious,” to some, in that direction from the federal government should have been taking place from the very beginning.
Biden’s pledge to renew federal leadership comes at a moment when the US is at a crossroads between furthering a public health crisis or taking the first steps toward a full recovery.
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