Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday the U.S. government should have done a better job getting coronavirus vaccines to its citizens.
Approximately 5.3 million people have been vaccinated so far despite federal officials having promised 20 million vaccines would be given by the end of 2020. Overall, fewer than 20 million vaccines have been distributed around the country.
"Clearly, no excuses. We should have gotten 20 distributed, and 20 into the arms of people — by 20, I mean 20 million," Fauci told the Economic Club of Washington per CNN.
"I think we have to wait for the first couple of weeks in January to make any determination as to what's gone wrong, if anything.”
Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said beginning such an ambitious rollout amid the pandemic and during the holiday season might have contributed to delays.
“Again, no excuses, but you can explain why you may not have gotten to the level you want,” Fauci said. “Now, not to make excuses, we should have done better. So, let me make that clear.
"We should have done better, but I think we should wait until we get into maybe the second, or the third week in January, to see if we can now catch up with the original pace that was set."
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar blamed the holiday season for slowing delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
"Pfizer's vaccine was authorized and able to ship, I think it was Dec. 14, and Moderna's was authorized and available to ship on Dec. 21. Then you have of course Christmas and New Year's right there," Azar said during an Operation Warp Speed briefing.
"So while we continue to ship, you do have just the natural human behavioral element of the holiday season there in terms of hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers being able to line up individuals for vaccination. That's also a normal consequence."
Strictly enforcing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of giving the first doses of the vaccine to frontline workers and residents of long-term care facilities also has been an issue, according to Azar.
"I have encouraged our governors, and I will continue to do so, that if they are using all of the vaccine that is ordered — that is allocated, ordered, distributed, shipped — and they're getting it into health care providers arms, every bit of it, that's great," Azar said.
"But if for some reason their distribution is struggling, and they're having vaccines sit in freezers, then by all means you ought to be opening up to people 70 and over, 65 and over, you ought to be making sure that the nursing home patients are getting vaccinated."
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