When President Biden pledged last week to amass enough shots by late May to inoculate every American adult, the pronouncement was greeted as a triumphant acceleration of a vaccination campaign that seemed only weeks earlier to be faltering.
And it is true that production of two of the three federally authorized vaccines has sped up in part because of the demands and directives of the new president’s coronavirus team.
But the announcement was also a triumph of another kind: public relations. Because Mr. Biden had tamped down expectations early, the quicker vaccine production timetable conjured an image of a White House running on all cylinders and leaving its predecessor’s efforts in the dust.
A closer look at the ramp-up announced last week offers a more mixed picture, one in which the new administration expanded and bulked up a vaccine production effort whose key elements were in place when Mr. Biden took over for President Donald J. Trump. Both administrations deserve credit, although neither wants to grant much to the other.
Mr. Biden will announce that he intends to secure an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine by the end of this year, with the goal of having enough on hand to vaccinate children and, if necessary, administer booster doses or reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants of the virus.
At the same time, Mr. Biden benefited hugely from the waves of vaccine production that the Trump administration had set in motion. As both Pfizer and Moderna found their manufacturing footing, they were able to double and triple the outputs from their factories.
Mr. Biden had been in office less than a month when Moderna announced that it could deliver 200 million doses by the end of May, a month earlier than scheduled, simply because it had become faster at production. Pfizer was able to shave off even more time, moving up the timetable to deliver its 200 million doses by a full two months, partly because of newfound efficiencies and partly because it was given credit for six doses per vial instead of five.