Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Friday criticized the U.S. government’s rollout of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, calling the lack of a federal distribution plan “incomprehensible” and “inexcusable.”
The Utah senator, a notable Republican Trump critic, credited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food, Drug Administration (FDA), and pharmaceutical industry executives in rapidly developing vaccines for the Wuhan virus but said that the “vaccination process itself is falling behind.”
“It was unrealistic to assume that the health care workers already overburdened with Covid care could take on a massive vaccination program. So too is the claim that CVS and Walgreens will save the day,” he said, contending that they lack “excess personnel” to vaccinate millions of Americans.
“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” he continued.
Though the former GOP presidential candidate said that he lacks “relevant medical or public health experience,” he suggested that officials first “call on people who have carried out widespread vaccination programs elsewhere or in the past” and “learn from their experience.”
Romney also suggested that officials “enlist every medical professional, retired or active, who is not currently engaged in the delivery of care,” including combat medics, medical students, and veterinarians — all individuals “who could be easily trained to administer vaccines.”
The Utah lawmaker also floated establishing vaccination sites in schools while suggesting that officials schedule vaccinations based on “priority category” and date of birth.
Public health professionals will easily point out the errors in this plan—so they should develop better alternatives based on experience, modeling and trial. The current program is woefully behind despite the fact that it encompasses the two easiest populations to vaccinate: frontline workers and long-term care residents. Unless new strategies and plans are undertaken, the deadly delays may be compounded as broader and more complex populations are added. We are already behind; urgent action now can help us catch up.
The federal government hoped to vaccinate 20 million people in December, falling severely short of that goal. According to the December 30 updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12,409,050 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines had been distributed, with 2,794,588 receiving the first dose.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that a return to normal life will depend on vaccine rollout as well as a “rather strict adherence” to restrictions over the next several months. During an appearance at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) press conference last month, Fauci estimated that 75 to 80 percent of people will need to be vaccinated to create an “umbrella of protection over the community.”