The Washington Post reported that when US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said recently that the federal government would begin releasing COVID-19 vaccine doses held in reserve for second shots, no such reserve existed, according to state and federal officials briefed on distribution plans.
The Trump administration had already begun shipping out what was available beginning at the end of December, taking second doses directly off the manufacturing line, the news source said.
It added that health officials across the country, who had anticipated their limited vaccine supply as much as doubling beginning next week, are now faced with the possibility their allocations will not immediately increase. Officials in some cities and states were informed in recent days about the reality of the situation, while others are still "in the dark," the news source said.
At the January 12 briefing, Azar suggested 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." He explained the decision as part of the "next phase" of the US vaccination campaign.
HHS spokesman Michael Pratt confirmed that the final reserve of second doses had been released to states for order over the weekend, but he did not address Azar's comments this week.
"Operation Warp Speed has been monitoring manufacturing closely, and always intended to transition from holding second doses in reserve as manufacturing stabilizes and we gained confidence in the ability for a consistent flow of vaccines," Pratt stated, adding that states have ordered only about 75% of what is available to them.
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