US vaccine data shows gap between purchased doses and shots in the arms

The United States has purchased more than twice as many doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the past two years as were distributed domestically, according to documents provided to Congress, raising questions about the vaccine campaign of the country through two presidencies.

The documents, painting the clearest picture yet of the US government’s vaccine procurement strategy and the companies that have benefited from it, show that the US purchased 1.97 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines over the past two years and spent $30.4 billion.

Publicly available reports show the federal government has distributed 729.6 million doses in the United States and shipped 537 million doses overseas as of May 4. That leaves an apparent gap of 703 million doses between what was distributed and what documents show was purchased. According to an administration official, some of these doses are kept in inventory and for future supply, while more than 150 million others are missing.

“Looks like we need to change the methodology of administering vaccines,” the senator said. Richard Burer (RN.C.), one of the senators who recently questioned health officials about virus spending.

Details of the US vaccine purchase emerged as President Joe Biden and senators negotiated details of a $10 billion Covid aid package. The information provided to lawmakers influenced how this package was crafted and where funds would be directed, should it pass Congress. The US government has so far spent $3.7 trillion responding to the coronavirus, including buying tests, vaccines and masks.

Burr, one of the Republicans involved in the aid package talks, called the 1.97 billion vaccine figure “remarkable” and questioned whether the United States had large vaccine stockpiles. or if they had wasted hundreds of millions of doses. Other senators involved in the talks say they are now seeking information on how the Biden administration plans to turn vaccine distribution over to the private sector.

The Department of Health and Human Services has around 275 million doses of Covid vaccines – including around 170 million for adults and 105 million for children – in current inventory and future supply, according to a government official who asked to remain anonymous to discuss vaccine supply details.

The official said 79% of available vaccine doses distributed in the United States have been administered to patients, with fluctuations expected over time as demand declines.

The Biden administration has warned for months that without new funding, the United States would fall behind other countries in getting Covid-19 vaccines from drugmakers. White House press secretary Jen Psaki even carried a thick binder of vaccine data in front of TV cameras in early April when she touted the president’s willingness to provide details on vaccine spending. virus to lawmakers.

Vaccinating the country has long been central to the Biden administration’s Covid response and the widespread availability of vaccines touted as a major victory against the virus.

Read more: Covid Federal Aid Fight Risks Future Pandemic Drugs, Vaccines

Senate Democrats agree and say the Covid relief package is “urgent” and needs to be approved. “We need to do this soon,” the senator said. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) mentioned.

Emergency expenses

Republican lawmakers complained in April that the White House had been unclear about how it had spent billions of dollars in previously approved pandemic response funds. The White House said it spent hours talking to key lawmakers and offering them insight into where the money is going.

Documents obtained by Bloomberg show this back and forth and explain why some senators are saying it might be time to stop funding pandemic response programs through emergency spending.

So far, 258 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 76.9% of the population, according to Bloomberg’s Global Vaccine Tracker. Nearly 220 million have completed a series of vaccinations and 101 million have received boosters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine syringes at a Covid-19 vaccination site in San Francisco, California, in January 2022.

The United States is approaching one million deaths from Covid-19, according to Bloomberg records.

On March 2, the Biden administration sent a formal request to Congress for $22.5 billion to replenish Covid response programs, including $12.2 billion to purchase additional vaccines and other medical countermeasures. .

health secretary Xavier Becerra in a March 7 letter to the senator. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said $37.7 billion had not been spent since the March 2021 stimulus bill, but Biden health officials already had plans for how to use that money. This letter was included in the documents shared with Bloomberg.

The letter also revealed that the United States had purchased 1.97 billion Covid-19 vaccines. A March 18 letter to Burr from Becerra showed that 1.2 billion of those doses have been ordered since February 2021, and 500 million doses have been ordered in November alone.

Vaccines without approval

In 2020, the United States purchased 270 million vaccine doses that were never approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the documents show. These purchases were part of the initial funding for the development of the Covid vaccine, intended to stimulate the rapid development of new vaccines.

The documents do not specify how much money each drugmaker made.

Burr, in an interview, questioned whether the current vaccine distribution system is using doses efficiently and how many of them are left over or have been wasted. He said he and other Senate Republicans designed the $10 billion Covid aid package, now stalled in the Senate, to direct at least half of the money to therapeutics because he and his colleagues were concerned about how the administration distributes vaccines.

“We pointed him towards something that we can all agree should be our first line of defense,” Burr said.

The government official who shared details of vaccine supplies said the administration was working with manufacturers and vaccination sites to reduce unused doses. The government is committed to providing vaccines to anyone in the United States who wants them, the official said.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who also played a key role in negotiating the Covid relief package, said he had discussions with Department of Health and Human Services officials about how to transfer the Covid vaccine distribution system in the United States to the private sector.

Blunt said the Biden administration was in the early stages of moving “all of this to the normal health care delivery system rather than making it all a Covid emergency.”

“The Covid emergency has to end and will end for a while, and we have to figure out how to treat Covid more like the flu than a pandemic when it’s not a pandemic anymore,” Blunt said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Ruoff in washington at [email protected]; Courtney Rosen in washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn to [email protected]; Anna Yukhananov to [email protected]

Martin E. Berry