Biden administration officials Sunday defended the new president's goal of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office as "bold and ambitious," in response to doubts the plan is adequate to meet intense demand.
President Joe Biden has vowed a much stronger federal response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic after the Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed effort left it up to individual states to take the lead on administering the vaccine.
Public health experts have said Biden should aim higher, and 100 million vaccines after 100 days should just be the start.
Also Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said members of the Trump administration worked to derail her efforts.
In an interview that aired on CBS’ "Face the Nation," Birx said Trump was "presenting graphs that I never made."
Birx said she was "convinced there were parallel data streams" of information as well as "outside advisers coming to inside advisers."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Biden's vaccine bench mark "is still a very bold and ambitious goal."
"This country has never given 100 million shots in 100 days, so if we can do that, I think it would be quite an accomplishment," Klain said. "But obviously, we're not going to stop there."
Klain continued, "we need to keep going after that. So that is our goal, that is our first goal, it's not our final goal. It's not the end point, it's just a metric that the American people can watch and measure how we're doing."
Xavier Becerra, Health and Human Services secretary designee, said Sunday on CNN the United States would "need to do even more."
But, he cautioned, "before we can even do the ambitious part, we got to get everything working together." Citing what he described as the Trump administration's faulty vaccine rollout, Becerra said, "and now we got to make it work."
Asked if the Biden administration was lowering expectations with the 100 million goal, Becerra said: "Well, if the plane is diving like this, you're certainly not going to see it appear like this overnight. What you're trying to do is get the plane from being like this to getting straightened out."
The president's goal needs to be more ambitious, said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician, in an interview last week with The Associated Press.
"At this point, mass vaccination is our last and best chance to restoring normalcy," she said. "There should be no expenses spared in the vaccine rollout. A hundred million in 100 days needs to be seen as only a start."
Dr. Vivek Murthy, Biden's nominee to become the country's next surgeon general, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," that the administration's vaccination effort will take "a lot of work, work dispelling this disinformation, working on the supply, increasing distribution channels."
Murthy said the United States will have to increase vaccine supply by invoking the Defense Production Act. Also, the country will have to set up "distribution channels, like mobile units, like strategically placed community vaccination centers, that can reach people who traditionally are hard to reach and don't have access to health care," Murthy said.
Administration officials on Sunday also pushed for the expansion of genome sequencing, which would allow scientists to better understand the new mutations of COVID-19 across the globe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear to be effective against a mutation that originated in Britain.
"A little bit more concerning" is the South African strain, Fauci said, which "looks like it does diminish more so the efficacy of the vaccine."
However, Fauci cautioned, "We're still within that cushion level of the vaccines being efficacious against these mutants."
Fauci said preparations are in place "for the possibility that down the pipe, down the line, we may need to modify and upgrade the vaccines. We don't need to do that right now."
In a separate interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Murthy told anchor Chuck Todd the general public probably would not be vaccinated until midsummer or early fall.
"It's more realistic to assume that it may be closer to midsummer or early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population. So we want to be optimistic, but we want to be cautious as well."
Birx, speaking Sunday of her time as coordinator of Trump's White House coronavirus task force, said, "Every time a statement was made by a political leader that wasn’t consistent with public health needs, that derailed our response," she said.
She said she went "out on the road because I wasn’t censored on the road."
Birx believed she could "get a voice out at the state level because I could see the governors on the governor’s call weekly and I could see how deeply they were concerned about every one or their citizens."