White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended a dubious blatant lie Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview by claiming that the Trump administration failed to craft a national vaccine plan, insisting that the Biden administration was “starting from scratch” and was left with “no stockpile” of vaccines.
“Is that the best message to say that this administration started from scratch when there were indeed doses going out the door?” a reporter asked Psaki during Wednesday’s White House press briefing.
“I don’t think most governors or most of the American people would tell you that they think it was handled effectively and efficiently by the prior administration, given we are where we are,” Psaki said in response.
“When the President came in and the Vice President came in, there were not enough vaccines. There were not enough vaccinators. There were not enough vaccination locations. They have taken significant steps to address all of those issues,” she added.
Psaki argued that despite almost a million vaccines being administered weekly before Biden was sworn in, they had no “comprehensive plan,” didn’t have enough vaccines or places for one to get inoculated, and “not enough coordination with governors.”
“Yes, in the week prior to the President taking office, there were about 800 to 900,000 that as you said, doses being given a day. The average was about 400 to 500,000 prior to that. Last week, the average was 1.7 million a day,” Psaki said.
“So there are significant steps that have been taken. What they were conveying was that we did not have a comprehensive plan. There were not enough vaccines. There was not enough coordination with governors and local officials. And there were not enough places where people could get the vaccine. And now we’re working to address that,” she continued.
“It was important for the vice president to convey that because the American people need to know what we’re digging out of and that was why she said it,” Psaki added.
In an interview with Axios on Sunday, Harris attacked the Trump administration vaccine preparations, saying that the new administration inherited “no national strategy or plan for vaccinations,” which left them “starting from scratch.”
“There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. We were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out. And so in many ways, we’re starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year,” Harris said when asked what she finds the hardest part of the pandemic in her first month.
However, Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Fauci last month during a White House press briefing disputed a CNN report that also directly contradicts Harris’s dubious claims, saying the Biden team was building on the previous administration’s efforts.
“We’re certainly not starting from scratch, because there is activity going on in the distribution,” Fauci said at the White House on Jan. 21. “We’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. It’s taking what’s going on, but amplifying it in a big way.”
Under Trump, vaccination distribution was rapidly increasing before Biden even stepped foot into the White House. According to Bloomberg News vaccine U.S. data tracker, the day Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, a record high of 1.6 million vaccinations was administered. The data also shows that 1.3 million shots were administered on Jan. 11 and that 1.1 million were inoculated both Jan. 14 and 15.
The Trump administration under Operation Warp Speed cultivate the conditions for the creation of a COVID vaccine in record time. The first vaccination was administered nine months later. Before Biden took office, the federal government was making more than 8 million doses a week available through its distribution program, according to allocation figures from the Health and Human Services Department.
Trump’s plan was more state-centric, leaving states the control to develop their own individual plan for vaccination while providing an interim playbook in September from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also worked with each state to refine and develop guideline plans on prioritization and the process on how to distribute and administrate the inoculation. A 75-page playbook was published and updated at the end of October that was based on previous pandemic-related guidelines and emphasized that the process was still in the beginning phases with the “unknowns and unanswered questions.” It asked states to add and build in the beginning, calling it a collaboration effort to answer those questions and to give the federal government the information and data needed to speed up the delivery and mobilization of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program.
As they left states to plan and coordinate to administer the vaccine shots, the federal government focused on partnering with chain pharmacies to deliver doses, set up programs for nursing homes and hospitals to mobilize the inoculation efforts, and set aside billions for future vaccine production and distribution. In one month under Trump’s plan, more than 16.5 million Americans were vaccinated, enrolled over tens of thousands of private-public vaccine providers, and used the information collected by states in mobilizing more vaccines to those who were close to running out.
The Biden administration built on an existing structure left behind by the Trump team, but the president continues to throw shade towards his predecessor and his efforts. Last week, while touring Dr. Fauci’s office at the National Institute of Health Biden claimed that Trump “did not do his job,” and his “vaccination program was in much worse shape” when he took office.
“The Biden administration didn’t start entirely from zero when it came to vaccine distribution, though they have moved to expand and improve upon the foundations laid by the previous administration,” Joshua Michaud, associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation said.