Biden administration boosting weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses

The Biden administration is boosting the weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccines to states and territories by 16% next week and plans to give governors more advance notice on forthcoming allocations of the shots, according to multiple state officials briefed by the White House on Tuesday.

Vaccine supply to states, territories and Indian tribes will climb to 10 million doses next week, up from 8.6 million and continue at that rate for the next three weeks. Governors will be given a three-week forecast of their vaccine allocations, giving them more time to prepare vaccine distribution plans.

President Biden is expected to announce the changes in the country’s vaccine distribution plan at a White House event later Tuesday.

The federal government is planning to purchase 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, participants said. Next week, the administration is sending out 5.7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

This purchase raises the federal government’s total vaccine order from 400 million current doses to 600 million doses, which would allow the federal government to vaccinate 300 million Americans, a senior Biden administration official told CBS News on Tuesday.  

The newly-purchased doses — which will be produced “over the course of the summer” — does not, as of now, move up the timeline for all Americans to receive a vaccine if they want one.  

“It is going to take a number of months for us to be in a position where we can actually say to Americans that it is ‘open season,’ as Dr. Fauci calls it, to sign up for vaccinations,” the senior administration official said. “But with the announcement today, we have now purchased enough vaccine to vaccinate 300 million Americans, that’s good news.” 

Governors of both parties were being briefed Tuesday afternoon by Jeff Zients, coordinator of the Biden administration’s COVID response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Army General Gustave F. Perna, who is overseeing Operation Warp Speed, the national vaccine distribution program launched by the Trump administration.

Representatives for multiple governors in both parties shared information from the call with CBS News.

Multiple state officials working for Democratic and Republican governors expressed relief about the increased supply of vaccine and the decision to give state leaders a three-week schedule.

“A look-ahead of three weeks is a lifetime” when it comes to planning ahead, said one participant on the call who works for a Republican governor.

But some governors on the call complained that the CDC’s current system for tracking vaccine distribution is setting up unfair comparisons between the states and territories.

Among others, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told Wallensky that the CDC tracking system is “misleading” because some states are holding second doses of the vaccine in reserve for people who have received their first shot, while other states are opting to give out doses as they receive them.

“Counting that second dose, when we have to set it aside, is unfair,” Cuomo said on the call, according to two participants.

Other governors asked if the CDC could better explain to the public the breakdown of a state’s vaccine allotment – how much is considered a “first dose,” and how much is considered a second dose. Doing so, these governors stressed, would help temper and inform the public’s understanding of how quickly the shots are being distributed.

Biden administration officials also told governors that the federal government plans to continue with per-capita distribution of the vaccine instead of accelerating distribution to states with faster, more efficient plans — an idea that had been floated in the closing weeks of the Trump administration. The decision to maintain the per-capita distribution is considered a coup for smaller states concerned about vaccinating their populations.

State officials also said they are impressed by the seriousness of the Biden administration’s early outreach to governors, even during the transition of power.

“These calls have been very cordial during both administrations,” said one participant, “but my boss is grateful for how serious the Biden administration has been about reaching out.”

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