Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement regarding a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing efforts by the federal government to increase the availability of coronavirus vaccines. This report follows the Select Subcommittee’s bipartisan request in July 2020 for an ongoing review of coronavirus vaccine development efforts, as well as GAO’s mandate to report to Congress pursuant to the CARES Act.
“Today’s GAO report confirms that key decisions made by the Biden-Harris Administration, supported by resources provided by the American Rescue Plan, have accelerated vaccine distribution and administration across the United States, bringing our nation closer to finally defeating the coronavirus. The ‘multiple challenges’ GAO found that health officials faced during the initial vaccine rollout, largely during the previous Administration, are being addressed, and millions of Americans are now being vaccinated every day.
“GAO’s report reminds us that ‘timely, clear, and consistent communication about vaccine availability is essential to ensure public confidence and trust.’ It is more important than ever to listen to our nation’s public health experts and allow science to guide our pandemic response. I look forward to discussing the Biden Administration’s science-based approach and progress in accelerating vaccinations at tomorrow’s Select Subcommittee hearing with three of our nation’s top scientists: NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Chief Science Officer for the COVID Response Dr. David Kessler.”
Today’s GAO report includes the following findings, among others:
- “Multiple Challenges” Plagued Early Vaccine Rollout Under the Prior Administration. According to GAO, stakeholders “identified multiple challenges with initial implementation of COVID-19 vaccination.” For example, GAO notes that during the early vaccine rollout, “state, territorial, and local health officials and health care providers lacked information on vaccine shipments, such as on the number of doses they would receive and when they would arrive, which is critical to planning for and administering vaccinations.” Without this information, it was “difficult for states to plan further distribution to the local level.” GAO also reports that “health care providers did not have information from an authoritative source to combat misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.”
- These findings echo concerns raised by the Select Subcommittee last year that the Trump Administration was not effectively planning for vaccine distribution. GAO previously reported that the “initial vaccine rollout did not match public expectations, with initial numbers of distributed and administered COVID-19 vaccines falling short of implementation expectations set by officials.”
- The Biden Administration Improved Vaccine Distribution. GAO highlights key steps the Biden Administration has taken to help improve vaccine distribution. For example:
- GAO’s report states: “On January 26, 2021, the White House announced that the federal government would begin providing states, Tribes, and territories with reliable vaccine allocation estimates 3 weeks in advance – instead of the one-week look-ahead they had been receiving – to give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so they can plan their vaccination efforts.”
- GAO notes that the American Rescue Plan includes “$7.5 billion for CDC to carry out activities to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines.”
- The federal government has begun initiatives—outlined in President Biden’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness—to improve vaccine implementation. These initiatives include the creation of new vaccination sites and additional guidance on equitable access promoting vaccination. GAO says that these new community vaccination centers “range from mobile sites that can support the administration of 250 vaccine doses a day to those that can support the administration of 6,000 vaccine doses a day.”
- The Biden Administration Increased Vaccine Availability. GAO writes: “The number of vaccine doses released increased notably at the end of February… [B]etween December and mid-February of 2021, an average of 8 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were released per week. Between February 22, 2021, and March 29, 2021, this increased to an average of 24 million doses per week.”
- As of April 1, 2021, the federal government had purchased 1.2 billion vaccine doses of one- and two-dose regimen vaccines. GAO recognizes that “this is a significant increase from the total of 600 million vaccine doses the federal government had contracted to purchase as of November 2020” under the Trump Administration.
Today’s report states, “projecting future availability of vaccine doses can be difficult, in part because of uncertainty surrounding complex manufacturing processes.” Given this uncertainty, “it will be imperative that the federal government effectively coordinate and communicate its plans, as GAO recommended in September 2020.”
Yesterday, CDC and FDA released a joint statement recommending a pause in the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. GAO stated that this announcement occurred after it had finalized its analyses for this report.