Biden Health Aide Pours Cold Water On Trump Admin’s Rosy COVID Vaccine Timeline

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - DECEMBER 08: Dr. Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be U.S. surgeon general, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Wit... WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - DECEMBER 08: Dr. Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be U.S. surgeon general, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. With the novel coronavirus pandemic continuing to ravage the country with daily records for infections and deaths, members of Biden's health team said they will make fighting COVID-19 the priority. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 20, 2020 11:41 a.m.

It’s going to be a while.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for surgeon general, poured some cold water on the Trump administration’s rosy vaccine distribution timeline on Sunday.

“I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer or early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population. So we want to be optimistic, but we want to be cautious as well,” Murthy, who served as surgeon general under President Obama, told “Meet the Press.”

As Pfizer vaccine doses began arriving across the U.S. last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar predicted on Monday that healthy Americans could begin to get vaccinated in the coming months. But an official with the administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort contradicted Azar on Thursday, saying the vaccine could be more widely available in the late spring or summer.

Murthy’s timeline puts the date for widespread vaccinations even later. 

“If everything goes well, then we may see a circumstance where by late spring, you know, people who are in lower-risk categories can get this vaccine, but that would really require everything to go exactly on schedule,” Murthy said.

The vaccine distribution has hit some early snags, as states last week reported that the federal government slashed their allocation of doses. Meanwhile, Pfizer said it has millions of doses waiting on warehouse shelves. Medical supply chain experts expressed bewilderment at the situation.

“When vaccines get produced and they remain in the warehouse, that means something went wrong with the supply chain. That it was not coordinated,” CUNY Professor Bruce Y. Lee told TPM.

An Army general coordinating the vaccine rollout took responsibility for the confusion on Saturday.

“I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” Gen. Gustave Perna said. “I know that’s not done much these days. But I am responsible.”

The FDA on Friday approved a second COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna, which is set to arrive to medical facilities early this week. About 6 million doses were set to be shipped out over the weekend.

Murthy added that, despite some early snags, coordination with the Trump administration has been getting better.

“You know, we, we still have more information that we need to gather, many more conversations that we need to have,” Murthy said. “But I’m glad that those are finally happening.”

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