Brief # 87 Health and Gender Policy
Biden and COVID-19: 100 Million Vaccine Doses in 100 Days
By Justin Lee
December 28, 2020
In early December, President-elect Joe Biden announced the new members of his public health team and objectives he plans to implement within in his first 100 days in office. These objectives include a federal requirement for Americans to wear masks where Biden is legally able to enforce compliance and seeking strategies to open the majority of schools across the country.
Another objective Biden specifically mentioned is his plan to distribute 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine within his first 100 days in office. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11th, 2020 and for the Moderna vaccine on December 18th, 2020. Since then, over 9.5 million doses have been distributed across the nation, yet only a little more than a million people have been vaccinated as of the end of December.
The Trump administration had a federal goal of inoculating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020; a goal that was missed by a laughable margin. Is Biden’s plan to vaccinate 50 million Americans before May 2021 another laugh for skeptics?
In short, Biden’s road to vaccinate 50 million Americans is possible but filled with many challenges. Here are some basics to consider:
Vaccine delivery timing: In late December, the Trump administration reached a second deal with Pfizer to secure an additional 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This news follows a similar agreement with Moderna, with the government reaching a second agreement to double their initial order by 100 million doses. In total, the US has secured 400 million doses; enough to vaccinate 200 million Americans (over 65% of the US population) with additional options with both companies to purchase hundreds of millions of more doses.
The potential issue here is not necessarily “how much”, but of “when”. The government’s second agreements with Pfizer and Moderna for over 200 million doses indicate delivery completion well into Q2 and early Q3 of 2021. As the first 200 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently being distributed, Biden’s estimate of 100 million doses by mid Q2 does seem realistic. However, both vaccines have had slower-than-anticipated launches and distributions. As the supply seems to be readily available to hit Biden’s goal, administrating the vaccine into patients seem to have its own separate hurdles.
Manufacturing supply chain: Both vaccines are composed of the active ingredient messenger RNA, a series of lipids (fats), salts, and sugars. Each ingredient serves a different purpose as the vaccine is frozen/refrigerated, thawed, and administered. A shortage of one of these components, or a shortage of the laboratory equipment used to manufacture the vaccines, can lead to delays in dose delivery. As Pfizer, a global biopharmaceutical giant which generated over $50 billion in revenue in 2019, has experience in mass-scale global supply chains, Moderna is the opposite. Moderna has never had a marketed product, and their inexperience in global launches and the current unprecedented demand can lead to future supply chain bottlenecks.
Vaccine storage: As many are aware, both vaccines require storage under specific temperatures. Pfizer, in particular, require their vaccines to be stored in minus 70 Celsius, which in turn requires administering health clinics to have the specialized freezers for storage. Distributing vaccines requiring sub-arctic temperatures also require large amounts of dry ice and packaging compartments suitable for freeze delivery. A shortage or unavailability of either can also pose critical risks to delays in vaccine distribution.
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