aColorado health officials reported on Tuesday that they had discovered the first known American case of the Covid-19 variant discovered in the United Kingdom, due to their frustration with the pace of introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The variant in the United Kingdom appears to be more transmissible than the other variants of the virus seen to date, and it has been detected in a number of countries around the world. The case of Colorado, who is currently in isolation, is a man in his twenties who has not left a country. The lack of a travel record means he contracted the virus in the United States, indicating undetected transmission of the new variant here.
The discovery will add to the urgency of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign currently underway, which some public health experts have criticized as proceeding too slowly. The Trump administration has shipped more than 11 million doses of the two available Covid-19 vaccines, but just over 2.1 million people across the country have received a dose since vaccination began on December 14, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration for the slow rollout of the vaccine in a speech on Tuesday. Be warned The administration’s efforts to distribute and administer the vaccine “are not progressing as they should” and that if the pace of vaccination efforts continues, “it will take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
He pledged to “move the sky and the earth to push us in the right direction,” and foretells a number of political efforts he is likely to take in his first 100 days in office, including using the Defense Products Act to speed up vaccine manufacturing, preparing a public health awareness campaign, and sending mobile vaccination units To hard-to-reach communities. Biden also reiterated his previous pledge to make sure 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines are given in his first 100 days in office.
However, he also sought to soften expectations.
Biden said: “It will take longer than anyone would wish and more time than the promises of the Trump administration suggested.” “This will be the biggest operational challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation, but we will accomplish it. It will require a massive new effort that has yet to start.”
at Interviews earlier this monthMoncef Salawi, a senior advisor for a vaccine development and distribution effort known as Operation Warp Speed, pledged to vaccinate 20 million Americans against Covid-19 in December.
Michael Pratt, chief communications officer for Operation Warp Speed, insisted that the vaccine deployment effort is largely being done on schedule. He said that the projections that El-Sallawi and others previously shared referred only to the number of doses expected to be available by the end of the year, not the number of vaccinations scheduled in the first weeks of the start of the application.
“Operation Warp Speed is still on track to obtain approximately 40 million doses of the vaccine and allocate 20 million doses for the first vaccinations by the end of December 2020, with the distribution of the first 20 million doses extending through the first week of January as states apply for Pratt said.
Pratt cited data delays as part of the reason for the large gap between the number of vaccines being delivered to the states and those actually being administered. However, the state of the data you collected New York times It also showed that most states only gave a fraction of the vaccine doses they received.
“We’re below the standard we want to be,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN Monday. “I’m not responsible for the startup, I can’t personally guarantee we’ll catch up. Hope we do.”
However, some vaccine experts said they were not surprised at how quickly the vaccine was distributed so far.
“It had to be this way,” Paul Offitt, a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told STAT. “We had to stumble and fall and stumble and find out.”
Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Directors, said some of the gap between doses taken and delivered is likely due to a program run by CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate those in nursing homes. Countries participating in the program are required to allocate 50% of their doses, which Hanan said could represent a share of the difference between the doses shipped and the doses taken at the national level.
“I don’t think it’s bad,” she said of the pace of the distribution so far. “I think it will always be this way. I really think that’s the easy part.”
Startup logistics are largely left to states to navigate. States and local public health officials Warned for several months They will need more than $ 8 billion in additional funding to support the infrastructure needed to administer vaccines. Instead, the Trump administration has provided $ 340 million in funding to prepare for vaccinations. For several months, lawmakers in Congress refused to allocate additional funding for the distribution of vaccines, even though President Trump’s coronavirus stimulus package signed on Sunday included $ 8 billion to fund the effort.
“We are trying to do everything in full swing, while we really need to invest huge sums of money,” said Ann Lewandowski of Wisconsin Rural Health Cooperative.
“It looks like there is no investment or plan in the last mile,” Ashish Jha tweeted, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “The federation has made no effort to help states launch a real infrastructure for vaccination. Didn’t the feds know vaccines are coming? Shouldn’t the vaccination sites be planned, etc., in October or November?”
Some public health officials, including former CDC director Tom Frieden, publicly blamed Operation Warp Speed for its startup pace. The distribution effort at Warp Speed is led by Jos Perna, a military general and logistical expert with no prior experience with vaccination campaigns.
“What happens when the vaccination program is run as a logistical program by White House appointees who have no experience with vaccination?” Frieden wrote on Twitter. “Don’t start well.”
Other public health leaders told STAT that a lack of communication with the federal government hampered the initial distribution effort.
Anita Lundquist, executive director of pharmacy services at St. Croix Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin, said she did not know what kind of vaccine the center would receive, how many doses, or when to deliver until the shipment arrived on Monday. This uncertainty meant that the hospital had to constantly reschedule staff initial vaccination appointments. It also meant that hospital officials had to prepare plans to administer Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which required different storage protocols.
At various points in December, the Wisconsin Department of Health suggested that St. Croix Regional Medical Center would receive 200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Instead, they received 100 doses of Moderna shots, less than a quarter of what is needed to vaccinate all medical staff.
Those awaiting vaccine delivery should rely on their health departments for updates, said Lewandowski of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, as the federal government’s Tiberius tracking system used nationwide to monitor dosing site can only be accessed through the state.
“The alerts don’t work perfectly, and the call from the CDC to the country isn’t perfect either,” Lewandowski said. She said that a local hospital expected her vaccine on Christmas Eve, only to discover after a repeated email to the state health department that doses had been delayed due to the involvement of the FedEx truck that was carrying them in an accident.
Such last-minute delays have a huge impact on scheduling, especially as many healthcare systems plan to vaccinate so that employees have days off to recover from the side effects. “It all comes out of the window,” Lewandowsky said.
Snow storms on the east coast last week also likely slowed distribution. Lundquist said that the Wisconsin Department of Health has informed hospitals of delays in getting Moderna out on time, which means that hospitals expecting to receive the vaccine last Wednesday, received their shipment on Monday or Tuesday.