US Vaccine Rollout Should Have Been Better, Fauci Says

Carolyn Crist

January 08, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The U.S. should have initiated a better COVID-19 vaccine distribution process — and still can, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday.

Federal health officials and Operation Warp Speed leaders have tried to explain why the U.S. hasn't fulfilled the vow to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. About 21.4 million vaccines have been distributed and 5.9 million people have been given a first dose, according to updated numbers released by the CDC on Thursday.

"Clearly, no excuses. We should have gotten 20 [million] distributed and 20 [million] into the arms of people," Fauci told The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. "I think we have to wait for the first couple of weeks in January to make any determination as to what's gone wrong, if anything."

The delays may have occurred because the COVID-19 vaccination program is new and because it started during the holidays, he said, adding "again, no excuses."

"Now, not to make excuses, we should have done better. So let me make that clear," Fauci said. "We should have done better, but I think we should wait until we get into maybe the second or the third week in January to see if we can now catch up with the original pace that was set."

Public health officials across the country have called for greater accountability around the vaccine rollout as COVID-19 cases continue to soar. The U.S. reported more than 243,000 cases and 3,858 deaths on Wednesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project, as well as an all-time high of 132,476 hospitalizations.

The holiday season slowed the process after the Pfizer vaccine received FDA authorization on Dec. 14 and the Moderna vaccine received authorization on Dec. 21, Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, said during an Operation Warp Speed briefing, according to CNN.

"So while we continue to ship, you do have just the natural human behavioral element of the holiday season there in terms of hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers being able to line up individuals for vaccination," he said. "That's also a normal consequence."

Azar also advised states to give doses to other priority groups beyond frontline health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities.

"If they are using all of the vaccine that is ordered…and they're getting it into health care providers' arms, every bit of it, that's great," Azar said. "But if for some reason their distribution is struggling, and they're having vaccines sit in freezers, then by all means you ought to be opening up to people 70 and over, 65 and over, you ought to be making sure that the nursing home patients are getting vaccinated."


CDC, "COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States."

The Economic Club of Washington D.C., "Event: Anthony S. Fauci, MD, January 6, 2021."

The COVID Tracking Project, "U.S. All Key Metrics."

CNN, "Dr. Fauci says US should have had better coronavirus vaccine rollout."