- The director of the CDC said Sunday that she doesn't know how many COVID-19 vaccine doses are in the US.
- This means states can't plan how many vaccination sites to use or how many appointments to make, Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Fox News.
- It could lead to wastage or long lines at vaccine centres, Walensky warned.
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The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Sunday that she doesn't know how many COVID-19 vaccine doses the US has.
"I can't tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can't tell it to you, then I can't tell it to the governors and I can't tell it to the state health officials," Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Fox News.
This was one of the "biggest problems" with getting vaccines to Americans, she said.
Walensky said this means states were unable to plan their rollout, including figuring out how many sites to use, how many workers they needed, and how many appointments to make.
Read more: More than 200 coronavirus vaccines are still in development as the initial vaccine rollout ramps up. Here's how experts anticipate 2021 playing out.
"If they overshoot it then we have a vaccine on the shelf. If they undershoot then we have queues and queues of people, people whose appointments are canceled," she said. "Either way, we have challenges."
President Joe Biden has promised 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
President Donald Trump missed his target of getting 20 million people immunized by the end of 2020.
So far more than 21 million shots have been given to Americans, according to CDC data. But tens of thousands of vaccine appointments have been canceled as states run out of vaccines.
Walensky worried about 'supply crunch'
Walensky said she was most worried about the "supply crunch," of vaccines, but that she was hopeful production for the two vaccines authorized in the US — one from Moderna, one from Pfizer and BioNTech — would increase after the first 100 days.
She said there could also be two additional vaccines in the pipeline, including one from Johnson and Johnson.
"We certainly can't predict any obstacles that could come in our way here. But from the data we've had so far, I'm hopeful that we'll actually get an increasing amount of supply, not a stagnating one," she said.
Getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible has become more urgent thanks to the more infectious coronavirus variants emerging across the world, including in the US.
The US has recorded 194 people who were infected with a coronavirus variant called B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK. Public Health England has estimated it to be 30-50% more contagious than the original virus.
"The more virus that is out there, the more virus that is replicating, the more likely that we are going to have mutations and variants," Walensky said.
Walensky said that the CDC was working closely alongside other agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and US Department of Defense, to monitor the variants and their impact on both vaccines and treatments.
In the meantime, people needed to do things that prevent the virus from spreading, such as wearing a mask and getting their vaccine when offered, she said.
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