Biden Covid advisor challenges Cuomo’s letter to buy vaccine directly from Pfizer


President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid Advisory Board member Dr. Celine Gounder slammed the Trump administration’s piecemeal Covid response as some states across the U.S. scramble to get the vaccine doses they need. 

“I think we’ve already had too much of a patchwork response across the states,” Gounder said in a Monday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

In a Friday coronavirus briefing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the federal government is sending his state 50,000 fewer doses of the vaccine than the week before. The state was getting fewer doses as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone over the age of 65 on Jan. 12.

On Monday, Cuomo sent a letter to Pfizer asking if the state of New York could buy vaccines directly from the company. Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a similar request to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Gounder told host Shepard Smith that this approach could cause more problems than it solves. 

“I think Governor Cuomo, himself, had said back in the spring that the situation around ventilators was essentially ‘one big Ebay‘ with all of the states bidding against one another for ventilators, and I think this kind of an approach to vaccine allocation is going to result, frankly, in the same kind of situation that he, himself, was criticizing last spring,” Gounder said. 

Data from the CDC shows that the U.S. is averaging about 900,000 vaccinations per day. During an interview with Fox News, Azar cited the CDC number and criticized the Biden administration’s goal of “100 million shots in arms in the first 100 days.”

“We will have distributed 250 million doses of vaccine by the end of April,” said Azar. “If they’ve only done 100 million vaccinations by then, it will be a tragic squandering of the opportunity that we have handed them.”

Gounder, an epidemiologist at NYU, qualified Azar’s statement, noting that distribution did not mean actual injections of the vaccine. 

“We’ve seen, though, that one, distribution is very different from getting shots in arms, that that last mile of delivery is really the hardest part here,” explained Gounder. “Secondly, we have yet to confirm that those number of doses, that 250 million number that he’s quoting there, is really going to pan out.”

Cuomo in a separate letter to Azar blasted him for “confusing” the public about vaccine stockpiles. Azar admitted on Friday that no stockpile currently exists.

Biden advisor Dr. Michael Osterholm warned that the worst of the Covid pandemic is yet to come, and the data backs up his grim prediction. The U.S. is rapidly approaching 400,000 deaths in the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That’s equivalent to roughly one in 822 Americans. For 19 consecutive days, there have been at least 23,000 people in ICUs due to Covid in the U.S., according to the Covid Tracking Project. The HHS reported that nearly 80% of ICU beds are occupied nationwide. 

Gounder said that the U.S. is in “our fifth peak right now” and that the next few months will be all about “layering protections” in order to avoid another. 

“We really do have to double down on things like masking and social distancing, outdoors instead of indoors, well-ventilated spaces,” Gounder warned. “If we do those things, then, yes, this may be our last peak but it really depends on each and every one of us doing what need to be done to get back to normal life.”

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