HHS secretary on COVID-19 vaccine rollout delays: ‘There was always going to be a ramp-up’

Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar claims there is a “concerted effort” among incoming Biden administration officials to downplay the Trump administration’s accomplishments fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a concerted effort by the new team to down-talk where things are, so they could look like heroes when they come in and just carry forward the momentum that we have established,” Azar told Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino on the newly relaunched “America’s Newsroom” on Monday.


The secretary responded to incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain’s criticism of the administration’s vaccine rollout and pandemic response. “We’re inheriting a huge mess here,” Klain told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Azar defended his department’s work, touting its success in making COVID-19 vaccine doses available to states. Over 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed to states, and 14 million have been administered as of Friday, Azar said. More than 900,000 vaccinations are administered per day, he added.

“There was always going to be a ramp-up here,” Azar said. “It was always going to be part of scaling up. But the key is having those doses available.”

Azar said most governors have rolled out these doses effectively in their states, but that some have struggled.

“You’ve got some governors who are, frankly, the ones who are failing,” Azar said, citing Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan as states that have administered 50% or less of vaccine doses received. “They’re failing and they’re just looking for somebody else to blame here.”

The secretary, who has served in his post since January 2018, submitted his resignation letter to President Donald Trump last week, effective Wednesday at noon. “It has been the greatest professional privilege and honor of my life to serve as secretary, and I thank you for the opportunity to serve the American people,” Azar wrote in the letter, which he tweeted out Friday night.


President-elect Joe Biden has tapped California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to replace Azar in the post.

Azar reflected on his time at the department on “America’s Newsroom,” saying the politicization of the pandemic is the “biggest regret” he has.

“It is not a place to score political points,” Azar said. “My biggest regret is how quickly it became point-scoring between the parties, instead of all just rowing together for the good of the American people.”

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