Whitmer accuses Trump administration of ‘slow-walking’ vaccine distribution

‘Where are those doses? What is holding them up? When can we expect them?’

Louise Hall
Saturday 19 December 2020 17:26 GMT
Gretchen Whitmer blasts Trump admin for 'slow-walking' vaccine roll out
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Louise Thomas

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Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has lashed out at president Donald Trump’s administration for “slow-walking” the roll out of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

Michigan, which was anticipating 84,825 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in its second round, will now receive reduced 60,000 doses.

“I still cannot get a straight answer out of the Trump administration about why Michigan, like many other states, is receiving a fraction of the vaccines that we were slated to receive,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.  

“There are millions of Pfizer vaccines, many right here in Portage, Michigan, that are waiting to be shipped. But the feds are slow-walking the process of getting the addresses to Pfizer for some reason I cannot get an answer to.”

The governor went on to blame a “bottleneck” of doses at the White House despite a continued surge in infections and deaths across the US.

Ms Whitmer and Mr Trump have frequently remained at odds amid the pandemic, with the governor often lashing out at the president’s handling of the virus and vice versa.

The comments come amid reports from a number of states that their second vaccine shipment has been reduced. Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays.

The US Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A senior administration official at the US Department of Health and Human Services speaking anonymously told the Associated Press there had been “some confusion between planning and training numbers provided in mid-November and official allocations.”

“Official allocations only come the week ahead because they’re based on the number of doses available to allocate. We are working on clearing up any confusion with the states," they said.

Gov Whitmer said that she had attempted to contact Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to clarify questions over distribution.

"Here's what I would ask if I could get them on the phone: Where are those doses? What is holding them up? When can we expect them?,” she said.

“I'm angry because this virus is raging on in this country. And there is either corruption or ineptitude that is keeping us from saving lives and protecting people."

POLITICO reported on Thursday that Mr Azar’s wife has tested positive for the virus, but said that said that he and his children have tested negative and have no symptoms.

Gov Whitmer is not the first to express anger at distribution. Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said “the lack of communication and clarity” is “disappointing and frustrating.

"Any delay in receipt of vaccine prolongs the vaccination process and puts health care workers at increased risk for contracting this deadly disease. Hospitals need consistent and accurate communication and allocation estimates to ensure quality of care is not interrupted," Mr Peters said.

Pfizer said on Thursday that the company has "millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

Federal Officials have said that 2.9 million doses were planned to be held at Pfizer’s warehouse to guarantee that individuals initially vaccinated would be able to get their second required shot.

According to The Detroit Free Press, at least 1,000 Michigan health care workers around the state have already received a shot of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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