“Where I failed – I failed, no one else failed – was to have a clear understanding of this cadence” of the vaccine distribution process, Perna said, adding: “C it was my fault. I gave advice. I approved the forecast sheets. “
The striking mea culpa – rare among U.S. officials in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic – came during a briefing in which Perna, the OWS chief operating officer, repeatedly said that he had underestimated the time needed to get the vaccine doses approved for distribution to states. Assignment chaos followed labeling confusion this has prompted hospital pharmacists in several health systems to throw away one in six doses of the first vaccines distributed.
On Friday, a day after governors of at least 14 states said the federal government suddenly reduced the number of doses of vaccine originally scheduled for shipment, the Department of Health and Human Services blamed the problem on poor planning, saying in a statement he overestimated the number of weekly allowances he could release to states.
Perna said on Saturday that the investigation into what was wrong had taken several days.
Typical vaccine distribution programs, he said, involve collecting vaccine and distributing it several weeks later. The process of distributing the Covid-19 vaccine has been significantly more complex, as the vaccine requires two doses spaced three to four weeks apart. To provide states with a continuous supply of vaccines, OWS will not release the first doses until they have the second doses on hand, Perna said. Figuring out how to do it has been a challenge, he added.
“It looked great on paper,” Perna said. “The paper plans are very good. Execution is where we learn and we have adapted accordingly.
Perna also denied that there were vaccine production issues from Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, in response to additional concerns that emerged last week from HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis regarding Pfizer’s ability to deliver the necessary doses. Perna said he was convinced that the deployment of the vaccine developed by Moderna, which was cleared on Friday, would go more smoothly.
The first shipments of this vaccine – which do not require extreme cold storage – are expected to arrive in the States on Monday, when Perna said he would personally brief governors on the status of available doses. In the meantime, OWS had started shipping the supplies needed to administer the vaccine, such as syringes, Perna said.
“There is no problem with the Pfizer vaccine. There is no problem with the Moderna vaccine, ”Perna said. “It was a planning error and I’m responsible for it. I don’t know how to put it more clearly than that.