Just over one million Americans have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday morning, a far cry from the federal government’s goal of inoculating 20 million by the end of the year.
Now that two Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use, the biggest hurdle is getting the doses to the roughly 331 million Americans across the country.
Earlier on Wednesday, National Institutes of Health director Dr Francis Collins, who received his first Covid vaccine shot on Tuesday alongside White House medical counsel Dr Anthony Fauci, said that if the government doesn’t meet its vaccine goal by the end of this month he hopes Americans “will understand this is a logistical challenge of enormous proportions”.
Collins told CNN, “Frankly, I think it’s pretty amazing it has gone as fast as it has, recognising it has only been 10 days since the FDA gave its first approval for emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine and then a week later for Moderna.”
Later in the day, federal health officials admitted the distribution of the vaccines had been slower than they had hoped.
The US suffered its first hiccup last week when roughly 3,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine travelling to California and Alabama had to be quarantined and returned to the company after the vials somehow got too cold. It’s unclear what caused the temperature to fall, but Pfizer said in a statement that it was able to intercept the shipments and “seamlessly trigger resupply to be delivered to those customers affected”.
Soumi Saha, vice-president of Premier, a consulting firm that works with thousands of hospitals and nursing homes, told CNBC last month that distributing the vaccine would be “completely new territory” for health systems.
“This is a brand-new logistical challenge distributing this vaccine to the right places and doing so while maintaining the integrity of the product,” she said.
Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, called the rapid scale-up of the vaccinations to pharmacies, hospitals and primary care networks “extremely impressive”.
He told CNBC on Wednesday, “It looks like one of the bigger hurdles to vaccine efforts in the US will be hesitancy, whereas the hurdles elsewhere in the world will be access to vaccine.”