“We’re in a national emergency, and it is time we treat it like one,” he said during today’s presser introducing his COVID strategy. Expect him and his deputies to draw a lot of contrasts with Team Trump’s performance during this early stage to try to lower the public’s expectations and ensure that the previous administration is blamed for any slowfootedness. Comments like these underline that message too:
Biden: "You're going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again, not from the president but from the real genuine experts and scientists." pic.twitter.com/rHO6vO9Pq1
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 21, 2021
President Biden on the coronavirus pandemic:
"For the past year, we couldn't rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed. And we have seen the tragic cost of that failure — 3-to-4,000 deaths per day." pic.twitter.com/JvJpqhUqtf
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 21, 2021
Ed asked a good question this morning, one I’ve been wondering about. If the Trump administration’s rollout of the vaccine has been so aimless, allegedly, how is it that we’re already close to the pace we’d need to hit Biden’s target of 100 million doses in 100 days? The president was asked about that at this afternoon’s presser and … had no answer:
Reporter: You set the goal at 100 million vaccines in your first 100 days? Is that bar high enough?
President Biden: “When I announced it, you all said it's not possible. C'mon, give me a break, man. It's a good start, one hundred million.” pic.twitter.com/xAp5yaPEfH
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 21, 2021
Biden, saying Trump’s vaccine rollout “has been a dismal failure,” says his goal is to administer 100 million doses in 100 days (or 1M per day)
In the last week, 912k doses of the vaccine were administered per day, according to Bloomberg’s tracker.
Just yesterday: 1.6M doses. pic.twitter.com/S4GuA8JJo7
— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 21, 2021
If we’re en route to 100 million in 100 days with “no plan,” shouldn’t Team Joe be aiming for 200 million in 100 days? We have competent people in charge now!
Or do we?
When Biden’s team accuses Trump’s team of having had no plan for distribution, I think they mean no plan to efficiently resupply providers. It’s not that the vaccines aren’t getting out to hospitals, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies, it’s that no one seems able to rely on when the doses will arrive or how many there’ll be. They just sort of show up when they show up, which means there’s no way to keep the long, long line of people who want the vaccines moving in a regular way. The Daily Beast dug into the problem a bit:
From the accounting to the way vaccines are allocated and scheduled for delivery—the system doesn’t allow for the quick movement of vaccines off the manufacturing line to state vaccine distribution points, those officials said…
Developed by the military, the plan was to have the federal government, specifically the military officials within Operation Warp Speed, lead the logistics part of the vaccine delivery. The military would not actually touch the vaccine but would instead coordinate the effort from the Pentagon.
Part of that coordination required states using the Pentagon’s Tiberius system—a platform that allows local officials to input their orders and see when they will be receiving their next doses. States only had a few weeks to try out the Tiberius platform before the vaccine rollout began in December, officials said, and they were provided false projections on how many doses they would be receiving once the Pfizer vaccine became available.
Two state health officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said they believe the Tiberius system is still not accurately updating and is miscounting either how many doses the companies have manufactured or how many have been allocated by the federal government. Those officials said they have yet to receive responses from federal officials about whether their most recent orders for Pfizer and Moderna jabs have been filled.
The feds are distributing vaccines, they’re just doing it haphazardly, it seems, at a moment when the country needs this operation running like clockwork. If people don’t know where to go to get their shot and can’t rely on a dose being available when they get there, go figure that we’ve ended up with the equivalent of a national traffic jam. And if Team Biden can’t solve that soon, eventually the existing supply that’s already been distributed will be dosed out and we’ll face a shortage.
Another way in which Team Trump appears to have lacked a plan was in failing to use the Defense Production Act to make sure that Pfizer and Moderna stayed supplied:
Unfortunately, what we do know on this subject suggests that the Trump administration took a more hands-off approach — relying on private sector vaccine suppliers to tend to their supplier base rather than taking government action to identify overall supply chain risks and tackle this key challenge holistically.
Indeed, recent press reports indicate that Pfizer has had some supplier issues and requested last year that the Trump administration invoke the DPA to address its ability to access specialized vaccine inputs. What is puzzling is why Pfizer was not issued a DPA rated order for such critical vaccines in the first place, which not only affords this order “priority” over other orders, but would in turn have allowed Pfizer to flow down rated (priority) orders to its suppliers in order to with supply chain issues.
Biden appears poised to invoke the DPA to increase production of personal protective equipment and syringes. The good news is that the closer we get to spring, the more we should see new cases of COVID ease somewhat. The bad news is that, ah, spring is still two months away at a moment when we’re hitting 4,000 deaths per day. It’s a cinch that we’ll reach half a million deaths from the coronavirus before this is over. It seems likely that we’ll hit 600,000 eventually too. Where the numbers might go once the hyper-contagious British strain of the virus becomes dominant here, God only knows. But note that the UK recently recorded 1,100 deaths in a single day, tantamount to 5,500 here in the U.S. per capita. If the vaccine process can’t be accelerated, there’s every reason to think this will get worse before it gets better.
Here’s Biden explaining why this is indeed a “wartime” effort. It certainly has the death toll for a war.
President Biden says admin’s national pandemic plan launches a ‘wartime’ effort: “When I say ‘wartime,’ people kind of look at me like, ‘wartime’? As I said last night, 400,000 Americans have died. That’s more than have died in all of World War II…This is a wartime undertaking” pic.twitter.com/7u4w60b8AQ
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 21, 2021
Update: Sure sounds like a shortage is coming:
But federal health officials and corporate executives agree that it will be impossible to increase the immediate supply of vaccines before April because of lack of manufacturing capacity. The administration should first focus, experts say, on fixing the hodgepodge of state and local vaccination centers that has proved incapable of managing even the current flow of vaccines.
President Biden’s goal of one million shots a day for the next 100 days, they say, is too low and will arguably leave tens of millions of doses unused. Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the nation has already reached that milestone pace. About 1.1 million people received shots last Friday, after an average of 911,000 people a day received them on the previous two days.
Update: “A liberating feeling” talking about science today:
REPORTER: You’ve joked a couple times about the difference between the Trump and Biden administrations. Do you feel less constrained?
FAUCI: You said I was joking about it. I was very serious. I wasn’t joking. pic.twitter.com/nyH4ow1zVj
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 21, 2021
Update: So much for the CNN scoop this morning about a nonexistent Trump vaccination plan:
Fauci says Biden Admin is "certainly not starting from scratch" on vaccine distribution etc. & says they are "taking what's gone on & amplifying it" & were "some ideas that were not bad ideas from the previous administration" & called it a "continuation but a real ramping up."
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) January 21, 2021
Obviously there was an initial plan. Millions have already been vaccinated. The question is whether there was a plan to keep the process moving after the initial tranche of vaccines was distributed.