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Dr. Fauci Admits There's Not Enough Vaccines to Go Around

"That's a supply issue," the infectious disease expert says. Here's why.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
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You've seen the images on social media and TV news: People around the country trying to make appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine they're eligible for, only to be turned away or rescheduled. Experts are telling us to "get vaccinated" to stay safe from coronavirus—but it seems there are not enough vaccines available for all. Why is this happening? Read on to find out when you might get your vaccine—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

"We need more vaccine," says Dr. Fauci

As of Feb. 2, the CDC reports that 52.6 million doses of a two-dose regimen have been distributed; 26.4 million people have received at least one shot, while just over 6 million have gotten the necessary two. That means nearly 20 million doses have been distributed but not administered.

"There is a very minor component of some parts of the country which is inefficient getting it into the arms, and there's some vaccine on the shelf," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, on MSNBC Tuesday night. "But overwhelmingly, if you look at the entire country, the supply does not, at this point, meet the demand. If you get on the phone with mayors and governors, the biggest complaint is, 'We need more vaccine. Get us more vaccine.'"

That will take time. 

Multiple strategies being pursued to distribute more vaccines

The two companies that make the vaccines currently being distributed, Moderna and Pfizer, say they will deliver 220 million more doses by the end of March. On Tuesday, the White House announced it would deliver 1 million doses of vaccine to 6,500 pharmacies nationwide on Feb. 11, as part of a program that will eventually include 40,000 pharmacies.

Also on Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Moderna is seeing federal approval to fill empty space in its vaccine vials with 50 percent more doses. "If the change is approved — which could happen in weeks — it could ultimately add tens of millions of more doses to vaccine supplies," the Times said.

Additionally, Fauci said that two potential vaccines have produced promising results in late-stage trials: one developed by Johnson & Johnson, and another developed by Novavax. 

Johnson & Johnson intends to apply for emergency use authorization for its vaccine this month. The company says it can deliver 100 million doses by the end of June. Unlike the two current vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson version requires only a single shot, not two. It can also be stored in everyday refrigerators for months, instead of the special ultracold freezers required for the Pfizer vaccine.

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors

"We will be doing better. As we get into February and March and April, there will be an escalation of doses that are available"—not only from Moderna and Pfizer, but from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, said Fauci.

Another vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University "had some problems" in UK trials but is now undergoing phase 3 trials in the United States, said Fauci.  

"But right now, we need to get more vaccine in the hands of the administrators who are going to be administering the vaccine," he added. "That's a supply issue."

The shortage was not unforeseen. In July, Pfizer offered the Trump administration the opportunity to purchase an additional 100 million to 500 million doses of its proposed vaccine. The administration turned down the offer.

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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