Senator Mitt Romney criticized the slow roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the US, blaming the federal government for failing to help states get the shot into more people’s arms.
“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” the Utah Republican said in a statement Friday.
The US vaccination program — Operation Warp Speed — has distributed millions of doses to states but is failing to meet projections for how quickly people will be inoculated. About 3.2 million doses have been given, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker, far short of the Trump administration’s goal of administering 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020.
Officials have blamed the delays on a delicate vaccine with complex storage requirements, uncertainty over the supply of doses, and strain on local health agencies already facing historic challenges. After criticism, President Donald Trump said this week that it’s the responsibility of the states to deliver the shots, urging them on Twitter to “Get moving!”
Romney, one of the most forceful Trump critics among Republicans, said it’s unrealistic to assume health-care workers caring for those sickened by the virus can take on a vaccination program as well, or to lean on major pharmacy chains to save the day. He suggested more medical professionals be trained and enlisted to administer shots, including veterinarians, combat medics, and medical students.
“The current program is woefully behind despite the fact that it encompasses the two easiest populations to vaccinate: front-line workers and long-term care residents,” Romney said. “Unless new strategies and plans are undertaken, the deadly delays may be compounded as broader and more complex populations are added.”
Michael Pratt, chief communications officer for Operation Warp Speed at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the department has been working with states for months to distribute the vaccines and that the pace will ramp up.
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“There will always be a lag between the doses allocated and those shipped; between those shipped and those administered; and between those administered and those reported to CDC as administered. We’re working to make those lags as small as possible,” Pratt said.
There have been more than 20 million cases in the US and more than 346,000 Americans have died. Tens of thousands more are expected to succumb in coming months, making the vaccine’s distribution all the more critical.
Some countries are far outstripping the US’s vaccination pace. Israel, whose size and population is similar to New Jersey’s, gave shots to an average 60,000 people a day in its first week. If the US were moving at the same speed, it would be doing 2.2 million daily inoculations — 10 times its current pace.
President-elect Joe Biden this week faulted Trump for the slow roll-out of the vaccine and vowed he would speed up vaccinations to 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.