The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s administration fell far short of its own vaccine promises

It pledged 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses in December. It has delivered fewer than 32 million.

The Trump administration promised to deliver as much as 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses by the beginning of 2021. It delivered a fraction of that. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Four days after the first coronavirus vaccine received emergency use authorization in the United States, the head of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort appeared on MSNBC.

“In the month of December, between the two vaccines — the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine — we expect to have immunized 20 million of our American people,” Moncef Slaoui said on Dec. 15.

But despite the Trump administration’s repeated promises to deliver tens or even hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses by the new year, President Trump is set to leave office Wednesday having delivered only a fraction of the doses his administration pledged.

The unprecedented rapid development of two highly effective vaccines remains a remarkable accomplishment, and the nation’s vaccine deployment is more or less on par with other economically developed countries. But the failure to more quickly administer the vaccine has compounded the broader failure of the United States to contain a pandemic that has killed 100,000 Americans over the past five weeks alone.

The Trump administration is delivering on a 2020 vaccine, but not at the levels the president suggested

As of Monday, just over 31 million coronavirus vaccine doses had been delivered nationwide. Fewer than half of those have been administered.

This despite months of promises from Trump officials that the United States would distribute no fewer than 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses and administer doses to 20 million Americans by the end of December. The Trump administration did not even deliver 20 million vaccine doses until Jan. 7.

You can watch examples of the Trump administration’s repeated and shifting promises about when and how many doses would be available in the video above.

Vaccine distribution is not the first thing that Trump and his administration overpromised on during the coronavirus pandemic, but it may be the last.

Vaccines were a chance to redeem failures in the U.S. coronavirus response. What went wrong?

On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who at one point had promised “hundreds of millions of doses as we go into the new year” — praised the Trump administration when asked about the slow vaccine rollout.

“We said we would have doses available for 20 million people that could be available. And of course that was a projection based on estimates of when FDA would approve,” Azar said. “FDA ended up approving later — close to Christmas — you’ve got a natural scale up. The amazing thing is just how without a hitch the distribution has gone.”

Moments later, Azar acknowledged that there was no coronavirus vaccine reserve available for states, despite claiming said reserve would be released to the states earlier that week.

Several states have since said Azar’s mixed messaging will further delay vaccinations.