US didn't have a COVID-19 vaccine stockpile when HHS announced strategy to release second doses, officials say

There was no stockpile of second COVID-19 vaccine doses waiting to be shipped, despite reports of a stockpile and HHS Secretary Alex Azar announcing earlier this week that the government would start distributing all reserved doses of the vaccine, The Washington Post reported. 

The administration had already begun shipping out all doses of the vaccine at the end of December, state and federal officials told the Post

Patrick Allen, a health director in Oregon, told the Post that Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed — the government's initiative to speed COVID-19 vaccine and drug development and distribution — had notified the state that "there is no reserve of doses, and we are already receiving the full allocation of vaccines." 

State health officials said they expected their vaccine allotments to increase after Mr. Azar's Jan. 12 announcement.

"If true, this is extremely disturbing, and puts our plans to expand eligibility at grave risk. Those plans were made on the basis of reliance on your statement about 'releasing the entire supply' you have in reserve. If this information is accurate, we will be unable to begin vaccinating our vulnerable seniors on Jan. 23, as planned," Mr. Allen said in a letter to Mr. Azar, according to the Post

HHS spokesperson Michael Pratt confirmed to the Post that the final reserve of second doses had been released to states, but didn't address Mr. Azar's comments from earlier this week. Mr. Pratt added that states have ordered only about 75 percent of what is available to them. 

One state health official told the Post that the updated vaccine guidance announced by Mr. Azar wasn't on the CDC's website, even though it was stated as federal policy by both Mr. Azar and Robert Redfield, the CDC's director. 

Christopher Sharpsten, director of supply, production, and distribution for Operation Warp Speed, called it a "false rumor" that "the federal government was holding back vaccine doses in warehouses to guarantee a second/booster dose," in an email sent to some state officials Jan. 15, according to the Post

Read the full article here.

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