- An Operation Warp Speed official says the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations will increase quickly in the near future.
- Michael Pratt adds that pharmacies will play an important role in administering doses as well as making sure people return for a second shot.
- Pratt urges people in the United States to have hope but also patience.
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As people grow frustrated at confusion over COVID-19 vaccination access, Operation Warp Speed officials have a message: Have hope, but temper it with patience.
“As much of a miracle of what Operation Warp Speed did, we don’t have enough [doses] for everyone,” Michael Pratt, the chief communications officer for Operation Warp Speed, told Healthline in an interview.
“That’s just the reality,” he said.
However, he added, there’s more encouraging news down the road.
With 19 pharmacy groups gearing up and ready to administer doses, Pratt said, Operation Warp Speed expects to have 40,000 vaccine administration sites up and running in 2 weeks.
Pratt’s comments come as the Trump administration is facing criticism over the slow start to the vaccination as well as the revelation late last week that the vaccine stockpile for second doses doesn’t exist.
Nonetheless, Pratt said his agency is committed to meeting upcoming goals.
“We still expect to [deliver] 200 million doses by the end of the first quarter,” Pratt said.
When they do get those doses flowing to municipalities quicker, he said, a partnership will ensure the rest of the process kicks into high speed quickly.
Operation Warp Speed began building its relationship with pharmacy companies early on, Pratt said, because they knew that when a vaccination was available, the public would find it more palatable in a trusted setting.
“These are the places that Americans go to get their flu vaccines,” he said. “The Walgreens, CVS’s, Krogers, Wegmans. By using all these familiar places, the public will feel comfortable.”
Training at these places is minimal, he added.
Since pharmacists and technicians are already adept at giving vaccinations, they only had to learn a few added details for the COVID-19 process.
That, Pratt said, will save much time in the uptick of the vaccination process.
But despite the speed of the creation of vaccinations, there are still delays that need to be ironed out.
In New York, those who sign up have to wait as long as a 14 weeks to get that first shot in the arm.
Pratt said that as they push for more supply to be delivered to locations quicker, they’ve adjusted their philosophy to expand the groups of people at the front of the line.
“It’s much better a shot goes into someone’s arm, even if it’s not the ‘right person,’” he said. “It’s better than no arm at all.”
Pratt acknowledged there’s public frustration about not understanding how some are getting access to doses and others aren’t.
But, he said, they had little choice but to tweak their plans.
“If the pandemic was not where it is now, we might have taken more time and been more methodical with this,” Pratt said.
He urges people to be ready for easier access in most towns, but to expect a bit more of a wait.
When they do ramp up, Pratt believes the speed of vaccinating people will pick up quickly.
Pratt also said that while the wait for doses may be frustrating, it’s the “right problem to have,” since it means that vaccination sites are ready and the demand for the doses is clear.
When Operation Warp Speed is able to quicken the flow of doses to states and localities, Pratt said, things will improve rapidly.
Pharmacies will also keep tabs and help with follow-up doses.
“[Pharmacies] are really good at the vaccination process and they know how to not just schedule well but how to get people to come back for their second dose,” he said.
His advice to the general public from here?
“Follow your local health departments [for information on dose arrivals and access locations],” he said.
“And it’s important to have a little patience. We’re going to get there,” he said.