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So far, gov't far short of goal to give COVID-19 vaccine to 20 million in U.S.

By Don Jacobson
So far, gov't far short of goal to give COVID-19 vaccine to 20 million in U.S.
An ampule of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is seen on Wednesday at the Broward Health Medical Center, Imperial Point, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Trump administration is not on pace to achieve its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans against COVID-19 before the end of the year -- as it's only reached about 5% of that target so far.

A little more than 1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States to date, according to tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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"That objective is unlikely to be met," Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for the administration's Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Wednesday.

"The process of immunizations -- shots in arms -- is happening slower than we thought it would be."

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"The commitment that we can make is to make [20 million] vaccine doses available," he added.

There are eight days remaining in 2020.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar mentioned the target figure two weeks ago, and also said that every American should have access to a coronavirus vaccine by the spring.

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Two vaccines are now approved for use in the United States. Regulators authorized the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna earlier this month.

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Slaoui said during his briefing Wednesday that the coordinated federal vaccination effort is offering help to states to reduce lag time, but emphasized that it's vital for local officials to "do it at a pace where they are in control, that no mistakes are made and no accidents are happening."

"That's super important," he added.

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Multiple states, so far, have not received the full allotment of vaccines they were promised -- forcing governors to adjust distribution plans. Operation Warp Speed operations chief and U.S. Army Gen. Gustave Perna apologized last week.

"I want to assure everybody, and I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication," he said.

"At the end of the day, the number of doses available to us to allocate ended up being lower," Perna explained. "When we had to decide what was eventually going to be shipped out, I had to lower the allocations to meet the releasable doses that were presented to me.

"Please accept my personal apology if this was disruptive."

States have asked the federal government for more funding for vaccine distribution. The $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Congress this week includes nearly $9 billion for vaccinations, but some state officials worry that it may be too late to help.

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President Donald Trump left to spend his Christmas holiday his luxury resort in Florida on Wednesday without signing, or vetoing, the coronavirus relief bill -- effectively leaving the entire aid package in limbo. The bill aims to send a second round of direct cash payments to most Americans.

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