President-elect Joe Biden issued a scathing critique of President Donald Trump over the slow distribution and administration of the Covid-19 vaccine, saying the United States is “falling behind, far behind.” And according to an NBC News analysis, if the vaccination efforts continue at the current pace, it would take nearly 10 years to vaccinate enough Americans to quell the pandemic.
“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said in a speech on Tuesday. “A few weeks ago, the Trump administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December. With only a few days left in December, we’ve only vaccinated a few million so far. And the pace that the vaccination program is moving now, if it continues to move as it is now, it’s going to take years, not months to vaccinate the American people.”
According to a count from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. had distributed 11.4 million doses as of Monday, but only 2.1 million vaccines had actually been given. That pace is much slower than the 20 million doses administered by the end of December that the Trump administration promised as part of Operation Warp Speed.
The CDC even acknowledged the delays, saying, “A large difference between the number of doses distributed and the number of doses administered is expected at this point in the [Covid-19] vaccination program due to several factors.”
But Biden promised that his administration would increase the speed of vaccination. “The Biden Harris administration will spare no effort to make sure people get vaccinated,” he said. “I’ve laid out three challenges in our first 100 days. One of them is ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of the first 100 days. If Congress provides the funding we’d be able to meet this incredible goal.”
One reason the pace is much slower than promised is the federal government has largely left states to fend for themselves when administering the vaccine. Trump even tweeted as much: “The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!” he wrote.
But as Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, told CNBC, states need guidance and resources from the federal government to manage the process. “This is giving me flashbacks of all the problems in testing,” she said. “The responsibility was given to locals and states, but no resources… to actually get there.”