President Joe Biden on Tuesday will announce new efforts to boost Covid-19 vaccine supply and distribution — addressing what’s likely the biggest challenge his administration faces in its first few weeks.
According to senior administration officials, Biden will announce three major actions. First, the administration will increase vaccine supply to states to at least 10 million a week, up from 8.6 million, starting next week. The Department of Health and Human Services will also start providing estimates to states of how many vaccines they’re going to receive at least three weeks in advance, up from one week. And the feds will purchase 100 million doses of each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, boosting the federal government’s total order from 400 million to 600 million — enough for 300 million Americans.
Officials also referred to other actions the administration is taking, such as using the Defense Production Act to get more syringes that can squeeze one more dose out of vaccines.
The moves build on the executive actions Biden took last week. As part of his Covid-19 and vaccine plans, Biden has promised to do everything within the federal government’s power to boost vaccine supply and distribution.
Currently, the US is lagging. Former President Donald Trump’s administration promised 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020, but the US still hasn’t hit that mark more than three weeks into 2021, based on federal data. Problems have cropped up across the US, from supply shortages to wasted doses to long lines. Other countries, including Israel and the UK, have pulled ahead of the US on vaccination rates.
It’s a genuinely life-or-death situation. With the US now averaging more than 3,100 Covid-19 deaths a day, every day or week or month of problems means potentially thousands, if not tens of thousands, more preventable deaths due to the coronavirus. Boosting vaccine efforts by just days, then, can literally save thousands of lives — getting the US closer to a herd immunity threshold that experts say is needed to truly stop outbreaks. And it would get the nation back to a social and economic normal faster, too.
For Biden, it’s also a massive political challenge. His handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the economic recovery, is likely how his presidency will be judged. If he fails, Americans will suffer, and they may not think fondly of the administration that let them down.
Biden is trying to confront that reality, and his latest actions chip away at the problem. But, as his administration has acknowledged, more action will be needed in the coming weeks to fully address what’s going wrong.