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Fauci Describes Vaccine Rollout as “Below Where We Want to Be” Right Now

Operation Warp Speed sought to vaccinate 20 million before December 31. So far, just 2.1 million have been vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar before receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, warned on Tuesday that the number of Americans vaccinated for the virus is much lower than where his organization wants it to be at this point.

Speaking on CNN about the matter, Fauci, who is also slated to be a part of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory team, explained that the U.S. is “certainly not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December” when it comes to how many in the country have received their first round of vaccinations.

The original goal of Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership between the federal government and private industries to accelerate the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccines, was for 20 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of the year. However, as of December 28, just 2.1 million vaccinations have been administered, with 11.5 million doses of the vaccine being distributed as of this week.

“Even if you undercount, two million as an undercount, how much undercount could it be,” Fauci said during his interview. “So, we are below where we want to be.”

Fauci expressed hopeful optimism for what will come about in January, in terms of vaccine distribution.

“I believe that as we get into January, we are going to see an increase in the momentum which, I hope, allows us to catch up to the projected pace that we had spoken about a month or two ago when we were talking about the planned rollout of the vaccinations,” Fauci said.

Biden has set forth an ambitious plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans within his first 100 days of office. Even if that feat is accomplished, however, some on his coronavirus advisory panel have said we should be prepared for troubling days ahead, particularly in the next few weeks.

Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist who is set to be among those advising Biden on COVID-19, warned that Americans should ready themselves for “one of the worst months in this nation’s history in January” as a result of continued travel during the past week.

“There is no doubt about that,” Gounder said in an interview with CNBC earlier this week. “That cake is in the oven already, with the travel that has happened over the holidays.”

Chief on Gounder’s mind, beyond getting people vaccinated, was ensuring there would be enough hospital staff in various places across the country in order to deal with the impending crisis.

“It’s not just about the vaccines. You have to also get the vaccines distributed and you need staff to administer the vaccines,” Gounder explained. “And when staff are all tied up in ICUs that are overflowing with sick patients, it’s very difficult to siphon off those staff away to do vaccination.”

Trump has previously claimed that distribution of the coronavirus vaccine has gone well, in spite of various missteps that have been documented. On December 17, for instance, he tweeted that the rollout of the vaccine was “getting the best of reviews,” and on December 22 he added that vaccine distribution “is going very smoothly.”

But many states’ governors contradicted Trump’s rosy outlook on the rollout, noting that they were promised a certain number of vaccines but then told to expect significantly fewer doses, with reduction rates as high as 40 percent in some places of the country, compared to what they originally had been told they’d receive.

The administration’s response to such claims was to initially blame Pfizer for not producing enough of the vaccines. The company later explained in a statement that it had plenty of doses ready to be sent, but that the White House hadn’t coordinated with them on where they had to go.

On the weekend after Trump’s December 17 tweet bragging about the vaccine rollout, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who is heading the distribution of the vaccines, apologized for what he called a “miscommunication” to states’ leaders about the rollout.

“I failed. I’m adjusting. I am fixing and we will move forward from there,” Perna said.

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