General apologizes to states for fewer vaccine doses

Associated Press

Washington – An Army general in charge of COVID-19 vaccines apologized Saturday for “miscommunication” with states on the number of early doses delivered.

Gen. Gustave Perna’s remarks came a day after a second vaccine was added in the fight against the coronavirus. Governors in more than a dozen states says the federal government has told them next week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than originally projected.

In this Nov. 13, 2020, file photo Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who is leading "Operation Warp Speed," speaks during at an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

“I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” he said. “I know that’s not done much these days. But I am responsible. … This is a herculean effort and we are not perfect.”

Perna says the government now is on track to get approximately 20 million doses to states by the first week of January, a combination of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. He says 2.9 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses have been delivered so far.

The coronavirus has killed more than 313,000 people in the U.S., the highest death toll in the world.

In an emotional plea Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the White House to explain why Michigan and other states are receiving a fraction of the coronavirus vaccines they were promised. 

"We have Michigan hospitals and nursing homes ready to administer this vaccine and the bottleneck appears to be the White House and I can’t get an answer why," she said. 

Michigan health officials expected about 84,000 doses next week. Instead, the state's allocation will be 60,000 doses, about a third less, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The state received 84,825 doses from Pfizer Inc.'s first shipments this week.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the public during a press conference in Lansing Friday.

"Where are our doses? What is holding them up?"

Whitmer said Pfizer, which is manufacturing the entire North American supply at its flagship facility in Portage, hasn't received the information it needs from the federal government in order to ship vaccines it has in stock.

"There are millions of Pfizer vaccines, many right here in Portage, Michigan, that are waiting to be shipped, but the feds are slow-walking the process of getting the addresses to Pfizer for some reason I cannot get an answer to," Whitmer said. 

Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership created by the Trump administration to develop and deploy a COVID-19 vaccine, is in charge of logistics, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.