Federal, state officials react to lack of federal COVID-19 vaccine stockpile

OREGON- The lack of federal vaccine reserves is forcing Oregon and other states to reevaluate their vaccination timelines. In Oregon, it means many seniors will now have to wait even longer to get the vaccine.

The lack of reserves is also drawing criticism from both state and federal officials, who are pointing blame directly at the Trump administration.

In a press conference meant to lay out Oregon’s new plan for vaccinating teachers and seniors over 65, Governor Kate Brown instead addressed other vaccine news: the lack of a federal reserve of doses.

“It was certainly shocking for our teams, as just a few days earlier we heard H.H.S Secretary Azar’s announcement that the federal government was going to release the entire federal supply to help the states expedite vaccinations,” Governor Brown said.

She pointed blame directly at the Trump administration in what she called federal-level deception.

“I am shocked and appalled that the federal government would set an expectation with the American people, that they knew they could not deliver, with such grave consequences… Their empty promises are literally playing with people’s lives,” Brown said.

Governor Brown was not alone in criticizing the administration. In a tweet, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said U.S. Secretary of Health Alex Azar was deceiving states.

Oregon’s senior U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said this news will directly impact seniors in southern Oregon.

“Certainly, we were led to believe that there were vaccines available, particularly in the stockpile, and that those would be made available in Oregon for seniors and teachers… I don’t know what is worse- the lies or the incompetence,” Wyden said.

The only Republican in Oregon’s federal delegation, new U.S. Congressman Cliff Bentz, is also weighing in.

In a statement he said, “I understand the concerns expressed by some regarding how the US Department of Health and Human Services has handled the national stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines.  However, I am equally as concerned about the large number of undistributed vaccines by the state of Oregon.”

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen says some have not been distributed but they are assigned.

“We know sites are catching up on their data. We also know that many doses have the name of a health care worker, a first responder, or another worker in a Phase 1-A group on them, but haven’t been administered due to a range of logistical complexities and simple scheduling issues.”

Allen said this shortage forces the state to make a tough decision.

It will now prioritize teachers to get the vaccine towards the end of January, then seniors over 80 the second week of February, then younger seniors later that month.

“What we had anticipated being able to do with that reserve was speed up this process so we could do educators and seniors at the same time. It takes away our ability to do that,” Allen explained.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News the U.S. does not have a reserve stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines, but it is confident that there will enough produced to provide a second dose for people.

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Grace Smith
Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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