US won't approve AstraZeneca shot until APRIL, Operation Warp Speed chief says

Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist has admitted the US vaccine rollout ‘should be better’ as anger mounts that fewer only about 230,000 Americans are getting vaccinated a day. 

So far, fewer than 2.6 million people have been vaccinated as of 9am ET Wednesday, according to the CDC‘s updated figures. 

That means just 461,982 vaccines have been given in the past 48 hours – about 230,000 a day.  

‘We agreed that the number is lower than what we hoped for,’ said co-chief of Operation Warp Speed Dr Moncef Slaoui during a Wednesday briefing. 

‘We know that it should be better and we are working hard to make it better,’ he added, of the distribution process. 

At least 11.45 million doses have been distributed and the federal government has allocated just shy of 20 million doses to be distributed by the end of next week. 

But that has not translated to shots in arms. 

The vaccine rollout in the US lags behind other wealthy nations. In the 16 days since the U.S. began vaccinating people, 2,589,125 Americans have gotten their first dose.  

That means an average of about 40 out of every 100,000 people in the US are getting vaccinated a day, compared to 60 per capita in the UK, which approved the Oxford University-developed vaccine made by AstraZeneca on Wednesday. 

Dr Slaoui said that vaccine – which is more easily distributed because it can be shipped and stored at refrigerator temperatures – likely won’t be authorized until April. 

US regulators have faced broad criticism – including from President Trump – for dragging their feet on vaccine approvals while thousands of Americans die of COVID-19 each day. 

It seems that the harsh words have done little to hurry the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) up.  

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AstraZeneca expects to have results from its ongoing US vaccine trial by February – yet Operation Warp Speed says it doesn’t expect the shot to get authorized for another two months thereafter. 

The US has vaccinated fewer than 2.6 million Americans as of Wednesday morning, updated CDC figures showed that evening

The US has vaccinated fewer than 2.6 million Americans as of Wednesday morning, updated CDC figures showed that evening 

As of Wednesday morning, the US had distributed 12.4 million doses of vaccine and given out fewer than 2.6 million, according to CDC data updated Wednesday evening

As of Wednesday morning, the US had distributed 12.4 million doses of vaccine and given out fewer than 2.6 million, according to CDC data updated Wednesday evening 

It remains unclear why. The vaccine was at least 70 percent effective in trials. Data published in the Lancet gave rise to no major concerns over side effects or safety (despite trials being paused in September after two participants developed neurological issues, both of which were ultimately deemed unrelated to the jab)/ 

With the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot, British officials hope to bump vaccinations up to two million a week – nearly as many as the US has administered in over two weeks. 

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is cheaper and easier to ship than the Pfizer or Moderna shots that have received emergency use authorization in the US. 

While Pfizer’s shot must be kept at ultracold temperatures and Moderna’s must be shipped and stored frozen, AstraZeneca’s could be sent across the world in regular refrigeration, which could be a major boon to faster distribution.

And distribution is moving painfully slowly in the U.S. Delays are literally deadly, with the US hitting a record high of more than 3,700 deaths on Tuesday. 

Having enough doses, or even getting those doses to states, however, doesn’t seem to be the heart of the issue in the American rollout of vaccines. 

‘The problem with the rollout isn’t due to a lack of product – that’s at least a little piece of good news,’ Peter Pitts, a former FDA official told 

‘The bad news is that fighting covid has been from the beginning a relay race: everybody has to do their piece for everybody else to do their piece, and the baton has been dropped by the runner..handling it in the final leg.’  

In record time, scientists managed to develop vaccines, the FDA managed to approve two of them – although not fast enough, arguably – companies managed to ramp up production of millions of doses of vaccines and ship them across the country. 

And now some nine million doses are waiting to be administered. 

CDC’s latest figures show that more than 12.4 million doses have been shipped to US states and territories since Pfizer’s vaccine became the first to get emergency FDA approval on December 11. That includes 959,875 that were shipped in the past two days. 

Notably, the CDC’s public data documents only the number of vaccine doses that were shipped – not how many have arrived at their destinations.  

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A little over 230,000 shots were injected in the past two days. 

While testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir assured Americans this week that the official tally of shots in arms is an underestimate, Dr Slaoui confirmed that the U.S. is nowhere near having 20 million people vaccinated. 

The problem, it seems, is happening sometime between shipments of vaccine going out, and health care workers injecting them into people’s arms. 

‘The frustration is that the logistics of getting people vaccinated is getting done at the last minute, which is shameful,’ Pitts said.  

‘This shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody because we always knew that getting the vaccine was not the final victory, the final victory is herd immunity. 

‘This is a state level proposition [and]…you have 50 different plans all in different stages of development. Nobody took responsibility to develop the plans, and that’s just shameful.’  

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and predicted that ‘things will get worse before they get better’ when it comes to the pandemic.

‘We need to be honest  – the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,’ Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday.

Biden also went after the Trump administration over its vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, is moving at a slower pace than needed.

‘As I long feared and warned the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,’ he said.

But Pitts says that political finger-pointing is as useless as it is common.  



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