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The top infectious disease expert in the US, Anthony Fauci, called on the federal government on Thursday to deploy more resources to vaccinate Americans after the country missed its goal to get 20 million people inoculated by the end of the year.
“We would have liked to see it run smoothly and have 20m doses into people today, by the end of 2020, which was the projection,” Fauci said.
“Obviously it didn’t happen, and that’s disappointing,” he told NBC in an interview.
The US failure to meets its end-of-year vaccine distribution goal comes as concerns grow about the newly identified strain of Covid-19 circulating in the UK, which was reported to have reached the US this week, with cases in Colorado and California.
More than 14m vaccine doses had been distributed in the US, but only 2.1 million people have been vaccinated, said leaders of the federal vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, at a Wednesday news conference.
The chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, said: “We know it should be better and we are working hard to make it better.”
The 2.1m number is probably an underestimate because of lags in reporting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 2.6 million people had received their first dose.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niaid), said to ramp up vaccine distribution, the federal government needs to provide more resources to the local governments tasked with administering the vaccine.
“Namely, the states, the cities, the counties, the places where the vaccine is actually going into the arms of individuals,” Fauci said. “We have to support the local groups, the states and the cities to help them get this task done.”
The US has had 19.7m recorded cases of Covid-19 and more than 342,400 people have died from the infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.
December has been the nation’s deadliest month since the pandemic began in early 2020, and health officials have warned January could be worse.
Fauci said it was “inevitable” that the new variant, called B.1.1.7, would arrive in the US because of the high level of infections in the country.
He said that while it is concerning that the new variant is shown to be more efficient at spreading person to person, it has not shown signs of being more harmful and it has not shown an ability to evade the protection of the vaccines being used. “The good news is that it does not appear to be more virulent, namely making people more sick and leading to more deaths,” Fauci said.
The new variant was identified in a Colorado man in his 20s working as a national guard member supporting a care home. He had no travel history, according to the state’s health department.
Although the new variant had not been found in the US until this week, the CDC said it was probably already circulating through the country. The agency said it had not identified the variant in its sequencing efforts, but its labs have access to only a sliver of the country’s Covid-19 cases and may not have picked it up yet.
The US has recorded more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country. On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden was critical of the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution efforts.
“A few weeks ago the Trump administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December,” Biden said. “With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far.”
Fauci said he was hopeful vaccine distribution would ramp up in the first weeks of January.
“Hopefully as we look forward to 2021, as we get well into the year, with a combination of vaccines and proper adherence to public health measures, we can end this thing and crush it, the same way we have done with other outbreaks like polio and measles and other important infectious disease,” Fauci said. “So that’s the aim and hopefully we’ll accomplish it.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Fauci calls for extra resources as US misses Covid vaccination target | Coronavirus