Last week, President-elect Joe Biden vowed to release COVID-19 vaccine doses from a government stockpile.
On Jan. 13, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) echoed that sentiment, stating it would “no longer stockpile millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses held to ensure Americans receive their second shot,” according to a brief notice.
But federal officials had already drained vaccine reserves before the HHS vowed to open up a vaccine stockpile, according to state officials who had been expecting more doses.
Local government officials expecting vaccine supplies to roughly double starting next week are now forced to contend with the status quo.
Critics of Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership established by the Trump administration to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution, have been frustrated with the speed at which they say the Trump administration has made vaccines available after the FDA authorized two for use. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, for instance, referred to the recent news about the stockpile as “deception on a national scale.”
In late December, the Trump administration had shifted its policy to cease stockpiling doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the Washington Post.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar had previously argued that it would be potentially unethical to free up the stockpile, increasing the risk that recipients of the first COVID-19 dose would miss their second shot.
In related news, Operation Warp Speed leaders reportedly waited more than two months to sign off on a proposal from the CDC to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, the U.S. government is attempting to accelerate vaccinations, loosening eligibility guidelines while states race to bolster their capacity to administer doses.