As copies of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s resignation letter was published online on Friday, Azar conceded in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt that there is not a reserve coronavirus vaccine stockpile.
Earlier this week, the federal government announced that coronavirus vaccine doses would begin being distributed as soon as they were ready. It turns out that has been the case for some time as the government has not been holding back doses for booster shots. The booster shots come three to four weeks after administering the first dose of the vaccine.
Holt’s question was in response to a Washington Post article published Friday. The report the government did not have a stockpile of second coronavirus doses when the Trump administration made the announcement earlier this week that vaccine doses would begin being distributed as soon as they were ready.
"We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be quality and available to provide the second dose for people. So we're not sitting on a reserve anymore. We've made that available to the states to order," Azar said.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was appalled by Friday’s revelations. The belief of many in state governments was that the federal government would be able to suddenly ramp up distribution with the new directive.
“I’m shocked we were lied to and there is no national reserve,” he said. “Federal announcements that 2nd dose being held in reserve was going to be released led us to expect 210,000 doses next week, other Govs made similar plans. Now we find out we’ll only get 79,000 next week.”
Azar and the federal government have been criticized by state leaders for the speed of vaccine administration. Azar, however, turned some of the blame on governors. Just 12 million of the 31 million vaccines that have been distributed have been administered.
“Yes, we have had some governors that are overly prescriptive and restrictive in the groups they’re trying to get vaccines out to,” Azar told Holt. “That has been our call to action.”
Amid the revelation that the federal government did not have a stockpile of coronavirus vaccines, Azar’s resignation letter was published on the New York Times website. He, like most high-ranking Trump administration officials, will resign Wednesday when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Azar’s letter noted his disappointment over the Capitol riot last week. In response to the riot, three members of the cabinet resigned before the end of President Donald Trump’s term on Wednesday. Azar is going to serve out the term.
“Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration,” Azar wrote in his letter to Trump. “The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States of America first brought to the world. I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the inaugural activities in Washington or elsewhere, and to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20, 2021.”