Wednesday, January 20, 2021 (Kaiser Information) — This story additionally ran on PolitiFact. It may be republished without cost.
It’s within the nature of presidential candidates and new presidents to vow large issues. Simply months after his 1961 inauguration, President John F. Kennedy vowed to ship a person to the moon by the tip of the last decade. That pledge was stored, however many others haven’t been, similar to candidate Invoice Clinton’s promise to supply common well being care and presidential hopeful George H.W. Bush’s assure of no new taxes.
“This staff will assist get … at the very least 100 million covid vaccine photographs into the arms of the American folks within the first 100 days,” Biden mentioned throughout a Dec. 8 information convention introducing key members of his well being staff.
When first requested about his pledge, the Biden staff mentioned the president-elect meant 50 million folks would get their two-dose routine. The incoming administration has since up to date this plan, saying it’ll launch vaccine doses as quickly as they’re obtainable as a substitute of holding again a few of that offer for second doses.
Both method, Biden might run into problem assembly that 100 million mark.
“I feel it’s an attainable purpose. I feel it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult,” mentioned Claire Hannan, government director of the Affiliation of Immunization Managers.
Whereas a tempo of 1 million doses a day is “considerably of a rise over what we’re already doing,” a a lot increased price of vaccinations will likely be essential to stem the pandemic, mentioned Larry Levitt, government vice chairman for well being coverage at KFF. (KHN is an editorially impartial program of KFF.) “The Biden administration has plans to rationalize vaccine distribution, however growing the provision rapidly” may very well be a tough job.
Below the Trump administration, vaccine deployment has been a lot slower than Biden’s plan. The rollout started greater than a month in the past, on Dec. 14. Since then, 12 million photographs have been given and 31 million doses have been shipped out, in accordance with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention’s vaccine tracker.
This sluggishness has been attributed to a scarcity of communication between the federal authorities and state and native well being departments, not sufficient funding for large-scale vaccination efforts, and complicated federal steerage on distribution of the vaccines.
The identical issues might plague the Biden administration, mentioned specialists.
States nonetheless aren’t certain how a lot vaccine they’ll get and whether or not there will likely be a enough provide, mentioned Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Affiliation of State and Territorial Well being Officers, which represents state public well being companies.
“We have now been given little details about the quantity of vaccine the states will obtain within the close to future and are of the impression that there will not be 1 million doses obtainable per day within the first 100 days of the Biden administration,” mentioned Plescia. “Or at the very least not within the early phases of the 100 days.”
One other problem has been a scarcity of funding. Public well being departments have needed to begin vaccination campaigns whereas additionally working testing facilities and conducting contact tracing efforts with budgets which have been critically underfunded for years.
“States must pay for creating the techniques, figuring out the personnel, coaching, staffing, monitoring folks, info campaigns — all of the issues that go into getting a shot in somebody’s arm,” mentioned Jennifer Kates, director of worldwide well being & HIV coverage at KFF. “They’re having to create an unprecedented mass vaccination program on a shaky basis.”
The newest covid stimulus invoice, signed into legislation in December, allocates nearly $9 billion in funding to the CDC for vaccination efforts. About $4.5 billion is meant to go to states, territories and tribal organizations, and $3 billion of that’s slated to reach quickly.
However it’s not clear that stage of funding can maintain mass vaccination campaigns as extra teams turn into eligible for the vaccine.
Biden launched a $1.9 trillion plan final week to deal with covid and the struggling financial system. It contains $160 billion to create nationwide vaccination and testing packages, but additionally earmarks funds for $1,400 stimulus funds to people, state and native authorities support, extension of unemployment insurance coverage, and monetary help for faculties to reopen safely.
Although it took Congress nearly eight months to move the final covid reduction invoice after Republican objections to the associated fee, Biden appears optimistic he’ll get some Republicans on board for his plan. However it’s not but clear that may work.
There’s additionally the query of whether or not outgoing President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will get in the way in which of Biden’s legislative priorities.
As well as, states have complained a few lack of steerage and complicated directions on which teams ought to be given precedence standing for vaccination, a difficulty the Biden administration might want to handle.
On Dec. 3, the CDC beneficial well being care personnel, residents of long-term care services, these 75 and older, and front-line important employees ought to be immunized first. However on Jan. 12, the CDC shifted course and beneficial that everybody over age 65 ought to be immunized. In a speech Biden gave final week detailing his vaccination plan, he mentioned he would follow the CDC’s suggestion to prioritize these over 65.
Outgoing Well being and Human Companies Secretary Alex Azar additionally mentioned Jan. 12 that states that moved their vaccine provide quickest could be prioritized in getting extra shipments. It’s not identified but whether or not the Biden administration’s CDC will follow this steerage. Critics have mentioned it might make vaccine distribution much less equitable.
Usually, taking up with a powerful imaginative and prescient and clear communication will likely be key to ramping up vaccine distribution, mentioned Hannan.
“Everybody wants to grasp what the purpose is and the way it’s going to work,” she mentioned.
A problem for Biden will likely be tamping expectations that the vaccine is all that’s wanted to finish the pandemic. Throughout the nation, covid instances are increased than ever, and in lots of areas officers can’t management the unfold.
Public well being specialists mentioned Biden should amp up efforts to extend testing throughout the nation, as he has instructed he’ll do by promising to determine a nationwide pandemic testing board.
With a lot give attention to vaccine distribution, it’s essential that this a part of the equation not be misplaced. Proper now, “it’s fully everywhere in the map,” mentioned KFF’s Kates, including that the federal authorities will want a “good sense” of who’s and isn’t being examined in numerous areas to be able to “repair” public well being capability.