Polis 'shocked we were lied to' after being told federal vaccine reserve does not exist

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Posted at 12:25 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 00:03:07-05

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday he was “shocked we were lied to” after The Washington Post reported, and an Operation Warp Speed official confirmed, that there is no stockpile reserve of vaccine doses that the Health and Human Services secretary promised earlier this week would soon be released.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said earlier this week that the federal government would stop holding vaccine doses and start releasing more to get second doses out on time for people who have already received the first dose.

Polis welcomed the news in a news conference Tuesday, saying it would increase Colorado’s supply and help with the efforts to expand vaccinations to new groups of people in the coming weeks, including people age 70 and up.

But The Washington Post reported Friday that the Trump administration had started shipping out the reserves in early December and that what was believed to be a reserve does not currently exist, leaving question marks about the next phase of the rollout in states like Colorado.

Polis tweeted that the state was expecting 210,000 doses next week but had come to find out it will only receive 79,000.

“I’m shocked we were lied to and there is no national reserve,” he said. “Federal announcements that 2nd dose being held in reserve was going to be released led us to expect 210,000 doses next week, other Govs made similar plans. Now we find out we’ll only get 79,000 next week.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tweeted that she had been told by federal officials that the state would not be receiving increased shipments of vaccine because “There is no federal reserve of doses.”

Polis 'shocked we were lied to' amid report federal vaccine reserve does not exist

Polis said during a news conference Friday afternoon that General Gustave F. Perna, the head of Operation Warp Speed, told him Friday that there is no federal reserve of doses.

“Today, I come before you extremely disappointed that we were lied to with plans of the administration to release reserve doses that were to be the second doses of the vaccine,” Polis said.

Polis said Perna told him that the federal government still anticipates delivering the second doses, but in the future and off of the supply chain.

“Contrary to a call we had with the vice president, the secretary of health three days ago, where they informed us they would be getting additional quantity available to the states, there is not that additional quantity available for any state,” he said.

Polis said the state had expected to receive around 230,000 doses next week because of what federal officials told him and other governors this week but will now receive only 77,950 next week and the final week of January.

The governor said that the planned-for larger order likely would have allowed about half of people age 70 and up in Colorado to receive their first dose by the end of next week. Now, Polis says he hopes to have 70% of people age 70 and up vaccinated by the end of February.

Polis said at the news conference that Colorado expects to begin receiving about 90,000-100,000 doses during February and that he hoped President-elect’s Biden’s promise to vaccinate 100 million people in the first 100 days of his administration would come true and speed up the delivery of vaccines to the states.

He said there was also potential for a single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine to receive FDA approval in coming weeks or months, which could further speed up vaccine timelines.

“The more doses that we get sooner, the sooner we can start [vaccinating people] 65 and up, the sooner we can start teachers and bus drivers and others that work on the front lines,” he said.

Polis declined to blame the administration for nefarious actions for the untruthful announcement earlier this week.

“I’m not going to cast aspersions. My guess is it’s gross incompetence,” he said.