WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration is asking states to speed up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to people 65 and older and to others at high risk by no longer holding back the second dose of the two-dose shots, officials said Tuesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “administration in the states has been too narrowly focused.”
As a result, he said the Trump administration is now asking states to vaccinate people aged 65 and over and those under 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk. He said vaccine production is such that the second dose of the two-shot vaccine can be released without harming immunization for those who received the first shot.
“We now believe that our production is predictable enough to ensure that there are other doses available to people from ongoing production,”
Each state has its own plan for who should be vaccinated, based on recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommendations prioritize health care workers and nursing home residents first.
But the slow pace of vaccine rollout has frustrated many Americans at a time when the number of coronavirus deaths continues to rise. According to the Johns Hopkins database, more than 376,000 people have died.
Azar said it was now time to move “to the next stage of the vaccine program” and expand the pool of those eligible to receive the first dose.
It also means expanding the number of places where people can be vaccinated by adding health centers and additional pharmacies.
“We have already distributed more vaccines than we have health professionals and people in nursing homes,” Azar said. “We need to get to more administrative channels. We need to get it into pharmacies, get it into health centers in the community. ”
He said the federal government “will deploy teams to support states that do mass vaccination efforts if they want to do so.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said hundreds of thousands of people are being vaccinated every day across the country, but the pace of vaccinations needs to improve.
“We are in a race against this virus, and honestly, we are behind,” Adams told Fox & Friends. The good news is that 700,000 people are vaccinated every single day. We are going to hit 1 million people and we must continue to increase this pace. ”
Elected President Joe Biden is expected to give a speech Thursday outlining his plan to speed up vaccines for more people in the first part of his administration. His transition team has promised to release as many vaccine doses as possible, rather than continuing the Trump administration’s policy of withholding millions of doses to ensure there would be enough supplies for those who get the first shot to get another .
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine requires a second shot approx. three weeks after the first vaccination. Another vaccine, this one produced by Moderna, requires a second shot about four weeks later. One-shot vaccines are still being tested.