WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday admitted that the Biden administration does not know how many COVID-19 vaccinations the US has in reserve.
Psaki made the startling revelation during a briefing with reporters at the White House, where she was repeatedly pressed on the nation’s lagging coronavirus vaccine rollout.
“Is there at least a ballpark amount that officials are aware of how much vaccine there is?” one reporter asked.
“We’ve been here for five days to evaluate the supply so that we can release the maximum amount while also ensuring that everyone can get the second dose on the FDA-recommended schedule,” Psaki said of what President Biden had said would be his top priority, before she then tried to lay the blame on the Trump administration.
“So the confusion around this issue, which we acknowledge there is some confusion, speaks to a larger problem, which is what we’re inheriting from the prior administration, which is much worse than we could have imagined.”
On Sunday, the new director of the CDC admitted that the agency was unclear on how many doses the United States had in reserve and also revealed that they didn’t have enough to send the hard-hit Empire State “as we would like.”
On Monday, Biden’s chief spokeswoman said vaguely that the administration was planning to give the states “more of a heads up on what to expect in the weeks ahead.”
A COVID-19 vaccine hub taking appointments stands in Brooklyn as doses run low in New York City.Getty Images/Spencer Platt
“I think what we’re trying to do now is fully assess what we have access to, what the status of the vaccine supply looks like, and ensure that we’re communicating that accurately and effectively to the public,” Psaki said.
The new commander-in-chief has faced growing criticism for his vaccination targets, which were already being met by the Trump administration — causing critics to say Biden is aiming too low.
Psaki had no answers when pressed on recent remarks from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said New York state had more capacity than it did shots of the miracle jab, which it ran out of on Saturday.
She also refused to say if hard-hit New York would be prioritized given its readiness to distribute the drug.
“It’s not just about having supply, which is pivotal, of course, it’s also about having more people who can physically put the shots into the arms of Americans, and it’s about ensuring we have places that that can be done,” Psaki said. “I don’t have anything for you on the prioritization.”
Cuomo on Friday called on Biden “to do whatever he can to increase the supply” and said the state’s reserves had already run dry.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday also begged Biden to step in.
The Biden administration has set the target of distributing 100 million shots in its first 100 days in office, or 1 million jabs per day.
But that target was reached by former President Donald Trump in his final days in office, according to a Bloomberg News tracker that shows that 1.3 million shots were given on Jan. 11 and 1.1 million on both Jan. 14 and 16.
At that rate, it will take three years to inoculate the entire US population against the virus that has so far killed 419,000 Americans.
When asked when Americans would be able to be widely vaccinated, Psaki said she would defer to the nation’s health experts and went back to Biden’s 100-day target.
“We obviously have set out our bold goal of 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days. We will build from there and we are looking forward to building from there but I don’t have a broad assessment for you,” she said.