File photo. How fast is Warp Speed anyway? Reports are coming in that the US is falling way behind on vaccination targets already.

DECEMBER 31st, 2020–(Daily Mail)–Are the United States falling at the final hurdle? The “Warp Speed” chief has admitted that just 2.6m Americans have been vaccinated instead of 20m target – despite 12m doses sitting in freezers across the states

The US has only administered about 10 percent – less than 2.6million – of the 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine it promised to give to Americans by the end of 2020, despite having distributed more than 12million doses to states and territories.

CDC data reveal that as of 9am ET on Wednesday, fewer than 2.6million people had received their first doses of Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccines – both of which are difficult to ship and handle because they need to be stored at freezing temperatures.

The bottleneck is caused by officials on state and federal level who have failed to create plans to get those shots into the arms of Americans according to a former FDA official who told DailyMail.com that the failure is akin to dropping the baton on the last leg of the vaccine race.

The hold-ups came as the US set yet another grim record for the deadliest day yet with 3,903 deaths recorded in a single day on Wednesday – and a new mutant ‘super strain’ of the virus was detected in southern California and Colorado.

While Americans continue to wait to be vaccinated, the UK on Wednesday authorized a vaccine by AstraZeneca that will almost certainly accelerate vaccine distribution there because it is cheaper, far easier to ship, handle and store than the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives.

Yet US regulators have no intention of approving the more efficient shot until April – two months after AstraZeneca’s US trial will have enough data to prove to the FDA that it works. Other trials have already shown that AstraZeneca’s $4 vaccine is safe and about 70 percent effective – well above the efficacy the FDA said it will require to approve a vaccine.

But in the US, federal government has punted distribution plans almost entirely to states, where health departments are already stretched thin by surging COVID-19 cases. The result is a helter-skelter patchwork of last-minute plans that look vastly different from state to state, bumping drug addicts and prisoners to the front of the line in some places, while in others, like Florida, elderly Americans are camping out in lawn chairs overnight in a bid to get vaccinated.

Others say essential workers and the aged are being told to ‘call around’ to see if they can get a vaccine.

As anger mounted that only about 230,000 Americans are getting vaccinated a day, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that states had the doses and needed to ‘get moving!’. Even Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist Dr Moncef Slaoui admitted. that the US vaccine roll-out ‘should be better’.

There were more than 3,903 deaths in 24 hours on Wednesday – the highest since the start of the pandemic. It is the ninth time this month that single-day fatalities have exceeded 3,000 – numbers never seen in the U.S. before December. Hospitalizations soared to a new high too, with 125,220 Americans with coronavirus in inpatient treatment.

In the past 48 hours, 461,982 vaccines have been given – about 230,000 a day.

‘We agreed that the number is lower than what we hoped for,’ said co-chief of Operation Warp Speed Dr Moncef Slaoui during a Wednesday briefing.

‘We know that it should be better and we are working hard to make it better,’ he added, of the distribution process.

At least 11.45 million doses have been distributed and the federal government has allocated just shy of 20 million doses to be distributed by the end of next week.

But that has not translated to shots in arms.

The vaccine roll-out in the US lags behind other wealthy nations. In the 16 days since the U.S. began vaccinating people, 2,589,125 Americans have gotten their first dose.

That means an average of about 40 out of every 100,000 people in the US are getting vaccinated a day, compared to 60 per capita in the UK, which approved the Oxford University-developed vaccine made by AstraZeneca on Wednesday.

Dr Slaoui said that vaccine – which is more easily distributed because it can be shipped and stored at refrigerator temperatures – likely won’t be authorized until April.

US regulators have faced broad criticism – including from President Trump – for dragging their feet on vaccine approvals while thousands of Americans die of COVID-19 each day.

It seems that the harsh words have done little to hurry the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) up.

AstraZeneca expects to have results from its ongoing US vaccine trial by February – yet Operation Warp Speed says it doesn’t expect the shot to get authorized for another two months thereafter.

It remains unclear why. The vaccine was at least 70 percent effective in trials. Data published in the Lancet gave rise to no major concerns over side effects or safety (despite trials being paused in September after two participants developed neurological issues, both of which were ultimately deemed unrelated to the jab).