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Biden Administration Aims To Buy 200 Million More COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden is pinning his hopes on late summer. That's when he's aiming to have nearly every American vaccinated against COVID-19. To try and make that happen, Biden said his administration is aiming to get 200 million additional doses of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech He's also saying states will see a boost in supply over the next three weeks.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now for more on this monumental challenge for the Biden administration. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: President Biden saying we need more vaccines. Give us the details here.

DETROW: So the federal government is in the process of buying 100 million new doses from Pfizer and BioNTech and 100 million from Moderna as well. And Biden says those should arrive over the course of the summer. When they are distributed, the U.S. would then have 600 million doses. And since these vaccines both require two shots, that would be enough supplies to vaccinate 300 million Americans. Of course, that is if everything goes on schedule and smoothly. And Biden did concede that that is a very big if.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we've ever undertaken as a nation. I've said that before, but I must say it again because we're going to do everything we can to get it done. But a lot of things can go wrong along the way.

DETROW: And you know, the latest CDC stats actually show just how tricky this is. So far, 44 million vaccines have been distributed to states. Only 23 of those have been administered, and only 3 million people of this point have gotten both shots. This was urgent all along. But as we hear more and more news of contagious variants around the world, it makes this even more urgent to speed up vaccinations.

MARTIN: So Scott, this extra 200 million doses of the vaccine coming this summer, that's going to be helpful in the future. But what about now? I mean, we've been seeing these vaccination sites just don't have the vaccines to meet demand. What about distribution issues?

DETROW: Biden made two changes that should help with that. First, he announced an increase in the current weekly supply from states. That's going to go from about 8.6 million right now to 10 million doses going out a week from the federal government. He also addressed a big logistical complaint. A lot of state officials have said they are often in the dark about how many vaccines are coming beyond the next week. And that makes it really hard to plan distribution, so Biden says, going forward, the federal government is going to give a three-week forecast to states so they can better adjust and make plans.

MARTIN: We heard in that clip earlier from President Biden - he said a lot of things can go wrong. Yes. How important is it to his presidency for this to go right?

DETROW: I think that this is going to be a very clear success or failure, and that's going to be a main thing that voters judge him on, and I think Biden's probably fine with that. He ran on competently managing the vaccine. I'm actually - looking on my desk, I just saw a bottle of hand sanitizer the Biden campaign distributed that had their COVID plan printed on it. So that's how much they tried to brand this.

But look; this is something that Biden's not going to be able to spin. Right? People will either be vaccinated or not. They'll see life start to return to normal or not. President Trump really saw that no matter how he spun things, people just lived in the reality of COVID, and they knew it wasn't going well. And Biden is clearly pushing on this. But you've already seen the administration kind of grapple with governing in real time as opposed to campaigning. And one of the ways is kind of adjusting their initial goal of 100 million shots in the first hundred days. Biden said maybe we can get that up to 150 then went back to down to 100. So they're just kind of adjusting in real time only one week into this.

MARTIN: All right. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow. Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.