How the US went from having one of the worst Covid responses to being a global leader in vaccinations under Biden

The efforts described to CNN in in-depth interviews with three of the government’s top Covid advisors and two other White House officials have allowed the US to go from one of the world’s worst Covid answers to a world leader in gunfire Into the arms. The interviews show how the Biden team inherited a pandemic at its zenith with high vaccine demand and low supply and a long-term plan to vaccinate millions of Americans. The president, at times impatient, pushed his advisers harder for ways to improve the federal government’s response to the virus. Aware that success or failure in vaccinating Americans would fail or break his presidency, Biden and his team set vaccination goals and set out on the federal response to meet them using the military on active duty and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with vaccinations, set up a federal pharmacy program, and fund community health centers to improve access to vaccines. And the US $ 1.9 trillion rescue plan also helped fund the vaccination effort. According to the White House, there are now 70,000 locations across the country where people can get vaccines.

“From day one it was a matter of urgency to overcome the problem, we are at war with the virus,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said in an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger.

When Biden took office, there were about 3,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of new cases per day in the country, only about 15 million people were vaccinated and there were few gunshots. To change that, Biden’s team brought a new urgency and a desire to lean on the scientific experts who had so often been ignored over the past year.

Since January 20, there has been a dispute between current and past government officials over what vaccine distribution plans the Trump administration had bequeathed to its successor.

“There was no plan to be shot in the arms,” ​​Zients told CNN. “These early cans from Moderna and Pfizer were shipped to states.”

The Trump team deny that there was no long-term plan, saying they turned the game book over to the Biden administration.

“I have to say it’s frustrating when they spend all of their time belittling what we’ve done. They say we had no plan. We had 65 plans,” said Paul Mango, a former Trump official -Administration who helped monitor the operation. He says their approach gave local leaders more control because the government felt they understood their communities better than the federal government ever could.

But the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, who once denied the Biden team started over, now says the Biden team deserves the latest vaccine rollout.

“There wasn’t really a well-articulated, long-range playbook to get the vast majority of people vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci to CNN. “That’s where the Biden administration’s judicial press really, really stepped on the plate and did well.”

“He is impatient”

The government points to Biden’s pressure as the main reason for the rapid ramp-up.

“He’s impatient,” said Fauci of the president. “He asks specific questions: ‘Well, what about this? Why don’t we? Are we doing the best at it?’ In a non-confrontational way, but more in a way that positively tries to get the best out of everyone. “

The president set the goal posts – starting with the promise of 100 million shots in the first 100 days.

Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland said that was a low bar.

“At that point we were already making over a million a day. So if he had done absolutely nothing, we would have made 100 million in the first 100 days even if he hadn’t shown up,” Hogan said.

But Biden achieved that goal on day 58 and increased the stake – the goal was doubled to 200 million shots in 100 days and then exceeded that number as well.

He personally announced new Covid milestones such as the purchase of an additional 200 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna, emergency approval for Johnson & Johnson’s one-time vaccine, and a partnership between J&J and rival Merck to speed up manufacturing.

All along the way, he put markers to explain to the American people what these announcements meant in terms of when recordings would be available. Not until late July and then late May would there be enough vaccines for all Americans. All adults could be vaccinated by May 1st and then April 19th.

After months of waiting, more and more vaccine appointments are becoming available.

“We always need to start with access to make sure that people can be vaccinated in places where they are comfortable and that they trust the people who vaccinate them,” says Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the White House Covid-19 Equity Task Force.

There were setbacks along the way, like ice storms in February that delayed vaccine shipments as supply increased.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended temporarily suspending use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after rare cases of blood clots were found. The Biden team insisted it would have no impact on care or vaccination goals and the vaccine is now being used again. However, the hiatus caused initial confusion and there were concerns that it might add to the reluctance of those who were already unsure about the vaccine.

Fauci said takeaway should be the opposite for those concerned about safety.

“When you’ve pulled the trigger on something as rare as one in a million, you should think that these guys and women out there who are making this decision are taking security very seriously. When you say something is really safe, do you think it’s really safe, “he said.

Next up: fighting vaccine hesitation

Within 100 days, the US was no longer heavily criticized for its Covid-19 response – with over 570,000 registered deaths, the world’s highest number – but with a vaccination rate more than four times the global average.

But the country is now at a turning point. After the vaccine supply is secured, it will exceed demand at a critical moment, with the Covid-19 variants on the rise. And the success or failure of the Biden government in reaching out to the reluctant and persuasive people to take the vaccine will be critical to whether the country can finally win the war on the virus and move forward.

The government insisted that it would always lead with science, but science has often moved too slowly for a public to be eager to go back to normal. Some reviewers said the Biden team should have issued previous guides on travel and socializing after vaccination in order to get the shot.

“I don’t think people understand what’s in it for them,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University, a CNN medical analyst. Wen said she also thinks the administration should prioritize teachers for vaccination earlier to help schools open earlier.

More than half of adults in the US have now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but reaching the second half can be much more difficult. Hesitation remains a major barrier to herd immunity as the number of vaccinations gradually declines. Some color communities are skeptical, vaccinations in rural areas are lagging behind, and half of Republican men say they don’t take the vaccine.

“It’s absolutely insane,” Hogan said of the reluctance of the vaccine among Republicans. “The only way we can get life back to normal is if we have enough people to get this vaccine.”

With all American adults eligible for a shot now, the country has entered a new phase in the vaccination effort: a massive public relations campaign on social media, on television and on the radio, as well as in newspapers featuring celebrities, politicians, doctors and local community leaders touted the benefits and safety of the vaccine and encourage people to sign up.

“We always have to make sure the news is tailored,” said Nunez-Smith. “So the point is to say what are your particular concerns? What misinformation and disinformation have you heard often? And how can we expose that?”