“We’re making these billions in new funds available to states as quickly as possible to support our combined efforts to end the pandemic,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in prepared remarks.
Federal officials hope to accelerate inoculation efforts, which have fallen behind initial targets. As of Wednesday morning, only 5.3 million Americans had received their first shot out of 17 million doses distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Trump administration planned to have 20 million doses shipped and distributed by the end of December.
Providers have called distribution plans “messy” as they’ve tracked shipments from state and local public health departments. Some Pfizer-BioNTech vials have arrived frozen and some have been thawed, requiring health systems to quickly adapt.