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Trump’s Vaccine Distribution Plan Has Left Millions of Doses Unaccounted For

Biden’s COVID task force says that, due to large discrepancies in vaccine data, millions of doses are missing.

A registered nurse practitioner holds up a sign and a flag asking for another patient to dose with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as well as a refill during a partnership with the hospital network and Amazon at the Amazon Meeting Center in downtown Seattle, Washington, on January 24, 2021.

Members of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force say that data discrepancies between how many vaccines have been distributed to states and how many have been administered show that there are millions of doses unaccounted for in the data. In other words, outside of second dose reserves, there seem to be millions of doses missing.

This week, task force members have looked over the numbers at the federal and state levels, the Daily Beast reports, and are finding large gaps where vaccine doses should be accounted for. According to manufacturing data, vaccine doses should be flowing, officials told the Daily Beast. Instead, states like New York and California are reporting that they’re running out and canceling appointments.

“State officials do not know whether those doses are sitting in warehouses, freezers or in other distribution hubs, or whether they have been used but unreported,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Erin Banco. “In other words, there could be perhaps millions of doses across the country missing in the distribution system, officials said.”

This recent report is further illustrative of the fact that there are major communication and planning problems with the vaccine distribution system — or lack thereof — left over from the Donald Trump administration. One official on Biden’s team said last week that “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch.”

The problems with the current system of disarray evidently run deep. “There isn’t just one — or two or three or four — problems with the vaccine distribution process, officials said; there are dozens,” the Daily Beast reported.

As states have been largely left to their own devices to work out their vaccine distribution plans with little federal guidance over the past months, reports have emerged from across the country of many different points of confusion over handling surpluses, eligibility and reporting. Public health officials have warned about potential problems springing from a dearth of federal guidance, and confusion over Trump officials’ sometimes contradictory statements to states has only deepened problems.

Last week, ProPublica reported that, in some places, staff are throwing out doses because they didn’t think they could give them to people outside of the states’ eligibility guidelines. In others, doses are being thrown away and the data on waste is not being reported to the proper authorities. There is no federal mandate to report doses that have been thrown away, ProPublica notes, so vaccine centers have little incentive to do so.

In some places, data is being misrepresented or skewed due to other logistical issues; in Virginia, for instance, where vaccine administration is lagging behind, Gov. Ralph Northam notes that there are technical issues with reporting, which is potentially leading to data gaps.

Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to help manufacture health supplies, and his team says that he also plans to use it to compel manufacturers to make more doses of the vaccine in order to achieve his goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days of his administration. But officials say that even with the president using the wartime act to compel the vaccine makers, it will still take time to meet that goal given the chaos left behind by the Trump administration.

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