There is no COVID vaccine reserve. Trump admin already shipped it
The Trump administration announced Tuesday, January 12, that it would begin shipping reserved vaccine supplies, raising hopes that states may see their vaccine supply potentially double as they work to accelerate the sluggish immunization campaign. But according to a report by The Washington Post, that promised vaccine stockpile doesn’t actually exist—it was already shipped out—and the limited vaccine supply available to states will remain as it is for now.
The news has not only left state health officials angry and confused by the false promises, they’re also left scrambling to sort out distribution changes. In addition to claiming they would release the (non-existent) stockpile, Trump administration officials told states to expand access to vaccines—now allowing anyone over age 65 to get vaccinated and people under 65 who have a documented underlying health condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The expanded eligibility covers around 152 million people in the US. But administration officials had previously estimated that it wouldn’t be until the end of March before they would have 200 million doses—enough to vaccinate only 100 million people—as STAT noted earlier.
In just the few days since the administration announced the changes, states have already seen chaos ensue at vaccine distribution sites. Mississippi’s health department simply stopped taking vaccine appointments after a “monumental surge,” according to the Associated Press. Phone lines were jammed in Georgia, hospitals in South Carolina ran out of doses within hours, and California counties were left begging for extra supplies for seniors.
Amid the chaos, the Trump administration isn’t offering clear answers on what happened or why officials misled states. According to the Post’s reporting, the Trump administration stopped reserving second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the end of last year, and the last reserves of Moderna’s vaccine supply were shipped out over the past weekend.
There was no stockpile to release on Tuesday when the Health and Human Services secretary said at a press briefing that “because we now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve.”
In a Twitter thread Friday morning, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown she was “shocked and appalled” to learn that the state “will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.”
“[T]hat they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences… This is a deception on a national scale,” Gov. Brown went on.
And there’s more. Azar also said on Tuesday that they would change how they calculated each state’s allotment, taking into account the pace of vaccination in each state. Fast states would get additional doses while slow states would be punished with fewer doses. Azar said the change would take effect in two weeks. However, as the Post notes, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday tweeted that federal officials had notified the state that it would receive an additional 50,000 doses next week “as a reward for being among the fastest states.”