Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Acknowledges 'Lag' in Vaccinations

Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Acknowledges 'Lag' in Vaccinations
Nat Moore, 69, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, receives his vaccination card after getting his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, in Miami, Fla., on Dec. 30, 2020. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Operation Warp Speed's chief scientific adviser on Monday defended the federal government's rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, but acknowledged there is a "lag" in getting the vaccines administered.

Officials with President Donald Trump's administration said late last year that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of 2020. Instead, under 3 million people received vaccinations, out of some 12 million doses distributed to states, as of Dec. 30.

Moncef Slaoui, the operation's adviser, said on CNN's "New Day" that "nothing has gone wrong." He was then played a snippet of what he said last year, when he said officials expected 40 million doses to be shipped and 20 million Americans to be vaccinated by the time 2021 hit.

"So obviously, I did say that, and, you know, that was our hope," Slaoui said.

The operation, a federal government effort, distributes vaccine doses to states, which are then in charge of administering them.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker, most states haven't come close to administering half of the doses they've received.
Slaoui pointed to two vaccines being developed and approved just 11 months after the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, was discovered, and said Operation Warp Speed has delivered 20 million doses. As far as administration, including recommendations to conduct mass immunizations at stadiums, he wasn't sure.

"We agree that there is a lag. We'll work with the states, we need specific requests for help. Frankly, it's not for me to decide whether stadiums should be used. Here my job is to discover vaccines and develop them. And I think that has been achieved," he said.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the Operation Warp Speed program, delivers remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, on Nov. 13, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the Operation Warp Speed program, delivers remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, on Nov. 13, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the delay in vaccinations stems from states not being fast enough to administer them, and hesitancy among a broad swath of the public in getting the new vaccines.

"We've got to work on all of these things. And we really are working on all of these things together. You've also got to understand that some states are using all their vaccine, other states haven't even used 25 percent of their vaccine that's on the ground. So what we're doing in a concrete manner, is we're actually looking jurisdiction by jurisdiction from a federal perspective. And we're going to start moving those doses around so that they can be appropriately utilized," he said on "CBS This Morning."

Officials on Sunday pointed to how 1.5 million vaccinations were done over the previous 72 hours and expressed optimism that the pace of vaccinations would increase this month.

Originally, officials said they expected 30 million Americans to be vaccinated in January 2021.

Trump has blamed states and urged them to move faster in administering doses they receive.

On CNBC's "Squawk Box," Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) echoed Trump.

"The ball has been dropped at several state levels, local levels. It's as though people didn't know it was coming, they were so ill-prepared for it. That's a pretty serious problem in my view," he said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said recently the pace is unacceptable. He aims to have 100 million people vaccinated in his administration's first 100 days if he wins the White House.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC's "This Week" that the goal was achievable.

"The goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days is a realistic goal. We can do 1 million people per day. You know we’ve done massive vaccination programs, Martha, in our history. There’s no reason why we can’t do it right now," he said.

Fauci referenced how New York City officials in 1947 vaccinated 6.35 million people against smallpox, noting he was 6-year-old at the time and received a vaccine himself.

"So, if New York City can do 5 million in two weeks, the United States could do a million a day," he said. "We can do it."