While the Trump administration delivered on the promise to create a COVID-19 vaccine, it fell short of its goal to administer 20 million doses by the end of 2020.
The Biden administration is changing course with a $20 billion federal vaccine campaign, part of the COVID-relief package. It set a new goal of vaccinating 100 million people within President Biden’s first 100 days.
“I am very optimistic because to be perfectly frank, if we fail with multiple variants emerging, it will be a phenomenal and exceedingly tragic failure,” said Cheryl Healton, dean of NYU’s School of Global Public Health. “We will double down on the failure we’ve already had and we cannot allow that to happen,” she said.
Under the plan, the federal government would exercise more control over the vaccine supply. And with the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZenaca vaccines likely to receive emergency approval in the coming weeks, the vaccine supply is expected to grow.
The next step becomes matching the supply with regional demands and setting clear expectations.
“If you don’t know what you’re going to get, then the problems we’ve had about vaccine drives that have had to be canceled or people that have to schedule or not been able to schedule a vaccine administration, because the vaccine either wasn’t there or they ran out,” explained Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“All the problems that we’ve had accurately predicting what we’re going to do on any given day goes away if you have a reliable vaccine supply and you know how much you’re going to get every day. You can plan much better,” he said.
Biden has proposed using FEMA to help construct one hundred vaccine sites across the country.
“There’s also the interest in shoring up existing vaccination locations and making sure they actually have equipment,” said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and executive director at Public Health Informatics, Computation, and Operations Research.
The plan also addresses staffing, by authorizing more people to administer the vaccine and summoning retired medical personnel to ease the staffing burdens on hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots.
Recent CDC data shows that nationally an average of around 800,000 people are now being vaccinated daily, not far from Biden's one-million a day target. Still, vaccine sites are being closed around New York, and appointments rescheduled, because of supply woes.
“Even if we don’t reach that goal of 100 million in 100 days, if there’s a substantial increase in vaccination rate and coverage, then that will be a win,” said Lee.
But to bring the end of the pandemic within sight, some say one-million doses a day should be the minimum.
“If we’re really serious about getting to herd immunity, we’re going to have to get something like two to three-million vaccinations a day,” added Benjamin.