Democratic governors call on HHS to release more vaccine doses

In a letter sent Friday, eight Democratic governors called on the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release COVID-19 vaccine doses that are currently being held back to help ensure second doses are ready for those who have received their first.

Governors Jay Inslee (WA), Gavin Newsom (CA), Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Laura Kelly (KS), J.B. Pritzker (IL), Andrew Cuomo (NY), Tim Walz (MN), and Tony Evers (WI) joined together in signing the letter.

 

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The letter references recent reporting which indicates the federal government is holding over 50% of its vaccine stock to make sure second doses will be available.

“While some of these life-saving vaccines are sitting in Pfizer freezers, our nation is losing 2,661 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average,” wrote the governors. “The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.”

Other reporting noted in the letter indicates HHS is holding back doses in case there are hiccups in vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

“In December, [Operation Warp Speed] announced agreements with both Pfizer and Moderna to acquire an additional 100 million vaccine doses from each company, bringing the combined allocations expected to the U.S. government to 400 million doses by the second quarter of the year,” reads the letter. “These agreements, combined with the expected emergency use authorizations of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca later this year, should give you the utmost confidence that the manufacturing pipeline is robust, safe, and capable of protecting a majority of the America public in the coming year.”

The governors say these additional doses are more important than ever with the spread of the new strain of COVID-19.

This letter comes amidst what many have deemed a failed vaccine rollout across the country. Data from the CDC indicates that about 21.4 million doses have been distributed to states so far, but just 5.9 million doses have been administered.

Coinciding with this letter, President-Elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Friday announced his plan to release nearly all of the available vaccine doses to accelerate distribution. Operation Warp Speed Spokesman Michael Pratt quickly released a statement pushing back against Biden’s plan.

“If President-Elect Biden is calling for the distribution of vaccines knowing that there would not be a second dose available, that decision is without science or data and is contrary to the FDA’s approved label,” he said. “Second-dose management was always about ensuring supply chain availability. Operation Warp Speed monitors manufacturing closely, with the intent to transition from reserving as many second doses as manufacturing further stabilizes with a consistent flow of vaccines. Our top priority remains maximizing availability of safe and effective vaccines to the American people responsibly, fairly and equitably.”

A spokesman for Biden’s transition team says the President-Elect will share additional details on how doses will be released next week.