White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tells Lawrence O'Donnell that the supply of Covid-19 vaccines will increase by 20 percent because President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act.
January 22, 2021

These interviews with Biden officials are going to be a lot longer, but a lot more informative -- as seen in this Lawrence O'Donnell segment with White House chief of staff Ron Klain last night about vaccine supply and distribution. If you're wondering how you'll get your shot, here are some answers.

"What I can't find in here is what you were just referring to, which is how do I go -- how does anyone go and get their vaccine? There is no 800 number in here. There is no central single website to go to guide you to the vaccine where you live. And so we are left now still with 50 different state approaches and then many different county approaches within the states," O'Donnell said.

"Right now we're inheriting a strategy that relied on 50 different approaches and many county approaches. What we're doing is taking over and making it a federally led effort. That still means people are going to get their shots where they live but it means we're going to add things that didn't happen before," Klain said.

"A hundred federal vaccination centers opened around the country by the end of next month, mobile vaccination centers so we can get to people in rural areas and urban areas. We're going to make it possible for people to get their shots from commercial pharmacies so that people can go get their shots where they get a flu shot or other vaccination. So our first initiative, Lawrence, is really to speed up the pace of which these shots are being administered, the locations where you can get them. I agree, though, there's no question. It needs to be easier and more transparent for people to figure out how to get their shot and when to get their shot."

He said President Biden had his two shots "publicly administered to build more support, more confidence in the vaccine."

O'Donnell expressed concerns about the availability of the second shot. "That seems to be the spot in these 198 pages where people are supposed to find their confidence that the second dose will be there. If I was waiting for my second dose right now, Ron, I don't find the specificity in there I'd hope to see."

Klain disagreed. "I think what you see in that report is our commitment to make sure that the supply will be adequate so that people who got their first shot will get their second shot. Look, because the previous administration fell so far behind on giving first shots, frankly, it's sad. We don't need as many second shots this month as we should. And so we have more vaccine to get people their first shots this month. And as production ramps up, we'll be giving people their second shots when they need them in February, March and so on.

"We've got a very carefully coordinated program with the vaccine manufacturers to increase production and to stay on track to get everyone the first shots and then the second shots when they need them. And Lawrence, it's more complicated than that and I should say it in a way that's reassuring to people. One of the orders the president signed today is to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of a very specific kind of syringe that allows us now to get six doses of the vaccine out of a vial instead of five. And that DPA authority and getting those syringes made actually increases our supply effectively 20% as soon as those syringes are available."

They talked about the administration using Medicaid funds to pay for this.

"That's right. And some money to do this was passed by Congress in that bill right before Christmas, was signed ultimately by President Trump. And we think we have enough funds to get going on this program. We're going to need more help from Congress. You heard the president of the United States when he was president-elect last week stand up and address the country in prime time and make the case for what we call the American Rescue package.

"A big part of that package is funding the next steps we'll need to pay for more vaccine roll outs after the first few months, to pay for more help for the states, to reach the hard to reach people. So we've got some funds to get us through this month, next month into March, but we need action by Congress now in the next few weeks to make sure we're funding the rest of the vaccine rollout through the spring and on into the summer."

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