'Inexcusable': Mitt Romney Blasts Lack of Comprehensive Vaccination Plan

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney released a statement on Friday that calls for a more thorough and urgent plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, while also harshly rebuking the current rollout.

"That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable," he said.

Romney's remarks come a few days after President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration's pace of the vaccine rollout and pledged to step it up when he assumes office.

Romney's statement opened with praise for the NIH, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical companies who all contributed to developing vaccines. He then voiced his displeasure in the government, saying "the vaccination process itself is falling behind."

"It was unrealistic to assume that the health care workers already overburdened with COVID care could take on a massive vaccination program," said the senator. "So too is the claim that CVS and Walgreens will save the day: they don't have excess personnel available to inoculate millions of Americans. Nor are they equipped to deal with the rare but serious reactions which may occur. Doctor offices are well-suited but the rate of patient throughput in doctor offices is predictably slow."

He admitted to not possessing medical experience, yet also said he knows when a current plan isn't working properly and when a better alternative must be developed—"particularly when hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake."

The senator and the 2012 Republican nominee for president also offered suggestions for a better distribution program. He proposed to first seek advice and information from people who have worked on other widespread vaccination programs.

Next, he said "every medical professional, retired or active, who is not currently engaged in the delivery of care" should be mobilized in the effort. Along with EMS professionals, he said this effort should include veterinarians, combat medics and corpsmen, medical students, first responders, and anyone else who could possibly be trained to vaccinate people.

He noted: "Congress has already appropriated funding for states so that these professionals can be fully compensated."

Romney also called on vaccination sites being set up—possibly in schools—in every state, as well as proposed a rough vaccination timetable. His statement read: "Schedule vaccinations according to a person's priority category and birthdate: e.g., people in group A with a January first birthday would be assigned a specific day to receive their vaccination."

He closed his statement by declaring that the plan currently in place "is woefully behind" and that without major changes "deadly delays may be compounded as broader and more complex populations are added." He said: "We are already behind; urgent action now can help us catch up."

Aside from Biden, the administration's pace of the rollout has also come under fire from health professionals such as Dr. Ashish Jha, who tweeted Monday: "So a lot of chatter happening on the slow vaccine roll out. Personally, I'm incredibly frustrated. Did we not know that vaccines were coming? Is vaccine administration a surprise?"

In response, Operation Warp Speed spokesman Michael Pratt said in a statement, as reported by CNBC: "Operation Warp Speed remains on track to have approximately 40 million doses of vaccine and allocate 20 million doses for first vaccinations by the end of December 2020, with distribution of the 20 million first doses spanning into the first week of January as states place orders for them."

Romney has been vocal in recent weeks about President Donald Trump. In a December 20 interview on CNN, he criticized Trump for what he called "loopy" conspiracy theories about November's presidential election. Instead, the senator told interviewer Jake Tapper that Trump should focus his energy toward "writing the last chapter of this administration with a victory lap with regard to the vaccine."

Grateful for the hard work from the medical community, gov. partners, and others who are working around the clock to deliver a safe & effective #COVID19 vaccine. It's time for Congress to do its job and finish what our bipartisan group started by passing emergency COVID relief. pic.twitter.com/Zje73g5oRX

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 18, 2020

Romney, 72, received the vaccine on December 18. He tweeted about the experience afterward while also pushing for passing a COVID relief package.

Newsweek reached out to Romney and the White House for comment on the senator's vaccination statement, but didn't hear back at the time of publication.

Mitt Romney Dec 2020
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) at the U.S. Capitol on December 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. Getty