With More Vaccines Secured, Biden Warns of Hurdles to Come

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Thursday it had secured 200 million more doses of coronavirus vaccines, enough to inoculate every American adult, but President Biden warned that logistical hurdles would most likely mean that many Americans will still not have been vaccinated by the end of the summer.

The additional doses amount to a 50 percent increase in vaccine, and will give the administration the number of doses that Mr. Biden said last month he needs to cover 300 million people by the end of the summer. But it will still be difficult to get those shots into people’s arms. Both vaccines are two-dose regimens, spaced three and four weeks apart. Mr. Biden lamented the “gigantic” logistical challenge he faces during an appearance at the National Institutes of Health. He also expressed open frustration with the previous administration.

“It’s one thing to have the vaccine,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s another thing to have vaccinators.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said Pfizer and Moderna would each provide 300 million doses by the end of July in “regular increments.”

The administration is looking toward a step-by-step process. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, predicted on Thursday morning that as early as April, any American could begin seeking a vaccine in an “open season” that would extend availability beyond priority categories.

“By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season,’” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with NBC’s “Today.” “Namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”

But the issue might be getting doses to people who do not readily seek them.

Mr. Biden has carefully avoided having his White House become consumed in criticism of his predecessor, but on Thursday he took direct aim at Donald J. Trump for what he said was a failure to create a process for mass vaccinations. The president, who said he had promised to speak openly to Americans about the challenges of the pandemic, blamed Mr. Trump for creating a significant one by failing to oversee the creation of a streamlined vaccine distribution program. “The vaccine program was in much, much worse shape than my team and I anticipated,” Mr. Biden said.

“While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor — I’ll be very blunt about it — did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions,” Mr. Biden added.

“It was a big mess,” he said. “It’s going to take time to fix, to be blunt with you.”

Health officials in the Trump administration have pushed back on those suggestions, pointing to hundreds of briefings that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services offered the incoming health team, including on vaccine allocation and distribution.

The highly decentralized plans to distribute and administer the vaccines, giving state and local health departments authority once doses had been delivered, were developed with career staff members at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Defense Department.

Officials involved in the last administration’s distribution plans said late last year that outside of the first few weeks, when they carefully managed the flow of second-dose reserves, their plan was always to ship out doses as they became available, and that they never intended to stockpile doses.

The deal for 200 million additional doses of coronavirus vaccine helps fulfill a promise Mr. Biden made in January to ramp up supply to cover more of the population. He said then that the administration was closing in on that deal with the two manufacturers as part of his larger pledge that some 300 million Americans could receive a dose of the vaccine by the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall.

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On Thursday, Mr. Biden said his administration had “now purchased enough vaccine to vaccinate all Americans.”

Dr. Nicole Lurie, who was the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response under President Barack Obama, said that vaccine hesitance could influence how soon some Americans eager to be vaccinated might get their shot, but that more supply would mean more work getting vaccines to people.

“We’ll be reaching more and more of the population, and more of the population you’ll have to make an extra effort to reach,” she said. “You have to hope that as the supply continues to open up that the public still has a lot of demand for vaccines. That’s really the unknown.”

The government had already secured 400 million doses of the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies that have been approved for emergency distribution — doses that were expected by the end of June. Mr. Biden said on Thursday that the companies would now deliver them by the end of May.

A third manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its single-dose vaccine for emergency use, a decision that could be made by the end of the month and allow the vaccine to be distributed the first week in March. But the company is still trying to show it can produce the vaccine at its Baltimore plant on a mass scale.

Federal officials have so far refused to say how much of that vaccine will be ready for distribution if it passes the regulatory hurdles, but they are cautioning not to expect a flood of new doses from Johnson & Johnson soon.

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What You Need to Know About the Vaccine Rollout

    • Providers in the U.S. are administering about 1.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines per day, on average. Almost 30 million people have received at least one dose, and about 7 million have been fully vaccinated. How many people have been vaccinated in your state?
    • The U.S. is far behind several other countries in getting its population vaccinated.
    • In the near future, travel may require digital documentation showing that passengers have been vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus.
    • When can you get the vaccine? What are the vaccine’s side effects? Is it safe to take during pregnancy? We’ve have answers to many of your questions.

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