Amid reports that the outgoing administration of former President Donald Trump left no national vaccination plan for incoming President Joe Biden, cities in New York, Mississippi and South Carolina have been canceling scheduled vaccination appointments due to a lack of available doses.
“There is no plan, or was no plan, by the Trump administration in terms of distribution, how to actually talk to the public about these vaccines and educate [people] about why they’re so important to their health,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota who is a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told WBUR.
“What we’re inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined,” said Jeff Zients, Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, to reporters on Wednesday night. “We don’t have the visibility that we would hope to have into supply and allocations.”
On Thursday, Biden unveiled his national coronavirus strategy which included his already touted goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots during his first 100 days in office—in other words, by April 30.
But while Biden signed an executive order on Thursday invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up vaccine production and another order directing states to create more vaccine centers at public locations like stadiums, convention centers and pharmacies, health experts say that there’s both a shortage of available doses that could take months to fix and also a misallocation of the doses currently available.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that while around 38 million doses have been distributed, according to Politico, but only around half have been administered, leaving a gap of around 19 million unused doses.
During Thursday’s White House COVID task force briefing, infectious diseases expert and coronavirus advisory board Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “That is something that we need to really take a close look at,” adding, “The thing that would be most disturbing is vaccine laying around.”
Under the Trump administration, states weren’t informed by the federal government about how many doses to expect and when, leaving them to plan under an air of uncertainty, according to Politico.
Operating under that uncertainty, cities in states across the nation are canceling vaccination appointments due to a lack of dosages.
Baptist Health South Florida has had to cancel some of its 12,000 vaccination appointments, according to NBC News, and officials in San Francisco, New York and New Jersey have also said they’re running low.
Across New York State, 26,300 such appointments have been canceled, according to Bloomberg News and WGRZ.
On January 15, Beaufort Memorial Hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina canceled 6,000 scheduled appointments, citing a lack of available doses. Though the hospital had ordered over 2,000 vaccines for the start of the month, they were only given 450 vaccines.
On January 14, the Mississippi State Health Department (MSDH) said that it would be unable to vaccinate all eligible individuals until it received a new shipment of doses in mid-February.
The MSDH’s announcement came a day after the state’s Republican Governor Tate Reeves told residents to sign up for vaccinations amid a rise in new COVID-19 cases. His instructions overwhelmed the state’s vaccination scheduling website and hotline.
“The Mississippi State Department of Health hopes to receive a large shipment of vaccine in mid-February that should help put additional shots in people’s arms,” the MSDH’s statement said. “We understand the frustration brought on by this sudden change of plans.”
Newsweek contacted the White House for comment.
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