Fauci backtracks on Trump vaccine rollout, defends Harris claim Biden admin was ‘starting from scratch’

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday defended a claim by Vice President Kamala Harris that the Trump administration had no rollout plan in place for COVID-19 vaccines despite saying last month that the Biden White wasn’t “starting from scratch.”

During an interview with Axios co-founder Mike Allen that aired Sunday on HBO, Harris again made the previously debunked claim.

“There was no stockpile … of vaccines,” she said. “There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. We were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out. And so in many ways, we’re starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year.”

However, during a Jan. 21 press conference, the day after the new administration took office, Fauci, head of the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Disease and now the White House’s chief medical adviser, said the opposite.

“We certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution,” he said then, in response to a CNN report the previous day quoting unnamed White House officials who said Trump left no plan for nationwide vaccine distribution.

“We’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all,” he noted further. “It’s taking what’s going on, but amplifying it in a big way.”

That statement gibes with other reports at the time noting that the Biden administration’s goal of 100 million vaccinated Americans within its first 100 days (a million per day) was already being met and even surpassed before the Trump administration left office.

On the day President Trump left office, 1.5 million people were vaccinated, according to Bloomberg News which was tracking vaccinations. As of then, the daily average was 913,000 shots.

But in a CNN interview Tuesday following the vice president’s previously debunked claim, Fauci came to her defense and even panned the Trump team’s rollout.

“What I think the vice president is referring to is, the actual plan of getting the vaccine doses into people’s arms was really rather vague. I mean, it was not a well-coordinated plan,” he told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. 

“Getting [the] vaccines made, getting them shipped through Operation Warp Speed was OK, but I believe what the vice president is referring to is, ‘What is the process of actually getting these doses into people?'” Fauci continued.

“That’s something we had to get much better organized, with getting the community vaccine centers, getting the pharmacies involved, getting mobile units involved. So that’s what I believe she was referring to,” he said.

Fox News noted that as of Tuesday evening, CNN and the Washington Post, both of which extensively fact-checked the previous administration — though not always accurately — had not fact-checked Harris and Fauci.

That said, Washington Examiner correspondent Jerry Dunleavy pointed out that Axios removed a tweet that appeared to fact-check Harris and replaced it with another that did not contain the correction. 

For his part, President Biden has also criticized the Trump administration’s rollout.

“While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor — I’ll be very blunt about it — did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions,” he said last week.

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Jon Dougherty

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