President-elect Joe Biden plans to release nearly every available dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines when he takes office later this month rather than holding back millions of second doses, his transition team said Friday. The decision is meant to "ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible."
The Trump administration has insisted it's necessary to retain second doses, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday expressing concern that Biden's plan could backfire if there are any manufacturing mishaps.
Outside of the White House, Dr. Leana Wen of George Washington University, was also apprehensive, noting that there is "an ethical consideration" since those who volunteered for the initial dose were reasonably expecting to receive the second in the proper amount of time. Biden does not intend to delay the second shot for those patients, and is instead counting on an increased production to keep pace. But, Wen says, not only is there no guarantee of a smooth manufacturing process, much of the slowdown has occurred between distribution and injection, so until that stage improves the risk of delay remains.
First, the bottleneck now is not supply, but the "last mile" between getting the vaccine to distribution sites & injecting it into people's arms. Speeding up this process should be the focus, or else vaccines will just sit in different freezers.
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) January 9, 2021
Harvard University's Juliette Kayyem, however, is more on board with the plan. She believes it's unlikely there will be a supply problem and is encouraged by recent upticks in actual vaccinations.
Quick thoughts: we are unlikely to have a supply problem by Feb with Biden announcement (he is not changing FDA standards, only distribution timing of first vaccine because of reliance on supply chain per @ScottGottliebMD good idea) and other vaccines (johnson and johnson). 2/
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) January 9, 2021