Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is at the helm of President Biden’s ambitious plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office.
Speaking on NBC, Walensky discussed the vaccine distribution plan, which she acknowledged will be a difficult logistical endeavour.
“We said 100 million doses in the first 100 days and we’re going to stick to that plan,” she explained. “But I also want to be very cognizant of the fact that after 100 days there’s still a lot of Americans who need vaccines.”
Previously, public health officials like former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar estimated that doses of a COVID-19 vaccine would be available as an intramuscular shot in American pharmacies by the end of February.
Walensky pushed back on this estimate.
“I’m going to tell you the truth here. I don’t think late February we’re going to have vaccines in every pharmacy in this country,” she stated.
“We recognize this is the most immediate emergency, to get this country back to health,” Walensky continued. “The plan was not to start planning today. The plan was to start working today and to get it out to the people.”
This comes as the U.S. saw a record high of 400,000 fatalities associated with COVID-19 infections.
Part of the Biden administration’s plan is to distribute vaccine doses to pharmacies across the U.S. Walensky said that as more vaccine data emerges, specifically from Johnson & Johnson, the priority is to get as many available doses to the public as soon as possible.
Walensky also noted that vaccine hesitancy is still a problem, with reasons ranging from a convenience issue to a lack of understanding of the science behind the vaccine.
“We need to bring that science to them by…people they trust,” Walensky added, emphasizing the role public health community outreach will play in enhancing vaccine confidence.