The Biden administration defended its decision to surge personnel and therapeutics to Michigan instead of offering it extra vaccines, citing the weeks it would take to get an immune response amid the emerging crisis.
Officials also said fiddling with its population-based distribution system could take vaccines away from places that face variant-fueled surges in the coming weeks, so they don’t want to play “whack-a-mole.”
“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine — in fact, we know that the vaccine will have a delayed response,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The answer to that is really to close things down.”
She said shutdowns, physical distancing and testing might be more effective at this juncture for controlling the spread in Michigan, which has been fueled by the fast-moving B.1.1.7 variant and transmission around youth sports.
Her comments come after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she pressed President Biden’s team for more vaccines to deal with the crisis in her state. She specifically mentioned the one-dose Johnson & Johnson version as a way to quickly work through younger recipients, fueling a debate about whether the administration should surge additional vaccines to hard-hit areas.
Dr. Walensky appeared to close the door on that idea.
“I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work to actually have the impact,” Dr. Walensky said. “Similarly, we need that vaccine in other places. If we vaccinate today, we will have an impact in six weeks and we don’t know where the next place is going to be that [the virus is] going to surge.”
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