Operation Warp Speed officials changed course on their vaccine rollout plans on Tuesday, expanding the recommendations on who should get COVID-19 shots, promising to send more first doses and no longer reserve a second shot.
The move from the Trump administration’s $ 18 billion vaccine development public-private partnership comes amid a disappointingly slow first month of nationwide vaccine distribution. The amendment aims to maximize the number of people receiving the first of their two shots, and offer some protection against a pandemic that is rising at unprecedented levels nationwide.
Vaccines will now be recommended for all people over the age of 65 or anyone with a high-risk condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity, a total population estimated to include approx. 90 million people.
The federal government will also begin helping states set up mass vaccination sites, Health and Human Services and Human Services Chief Alex Azar said Tuesday.
“We need doses where they need to be used the fastest,”
In the last week alone, more than 1.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 22,582 have died, according to the CDC. OWS changes come ahead of a Thursday briefing by President-elect Joe Biden, whose transition team last week announced similar plans to push out all available vaccine doses, part of a campaign promise to give 100 million shots in the first 100 days of the Biden administration .
After initially aiming to distribute 300 million vaccine doses in January, OWS steadily lowered its projections to 20 million by December, a target it also missed, with less than 9 million people receiving a first shot as of Monday.
The FDA has approved two vaccines, one manufactured by Pfizer and the other by Moderna, for emergency use. Large clinical trials showed that the vaccines were extremely protective against COVID-19 when given in two doses at a distance of three or four weeks apart. But over the course of the holiday, facing a nationwide wave largely driven by a new extra contagious coronavirus variant, the UK moved to extend the window to the second dose of its approved vaccines to as many as 12 weeks . Last week, a panel of experts from the World Health Organization suggested that a six-week window was acceptable.
A tense public debate has since played beyond the risk of pushing ahead by giving only one shot to maximize the number of people who could be vaccinated in the United States. Some fear that it could lead to partially immunized humans becoming infected and could allow the virus to develop resistance to the vaccines. On Tuesday, Azar stressed his belief that manufacturers would be able to produce enough doses to stick to the schedule, and getting people their second shot would still be a priority.
Lost in the debate is that while some states like New York have struggled with a lack of vaccine supply, many others have struggled with a shortage of vaccinators to give the shots. Of the more than 25 million shots fired by OWS to thousands of locations in 64 jurisdictions nationwide, only about a third of those shots have been injected into humans.
In Los Angeles, where hospitals are being crushed by a record influx of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, Dodger Stadium, the largest test site in the country, is being transformed into a vaccination distribution center. California is currently 46th nationwide in the number of doses they have administered per day. 100 people.
“I think it’s the ultimate demonstration of problems with the U.S. health care system that is fragmented, which probably has the wrong priorities,” University of Michigan epidemiologist Arnold Monto, acting chairman of the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, said at a briefing. held by JAMA’s medical journal on Monday. “We completely underestimated the challenges that this would present, because we really are not as organized as countries that have healthcare as a more systematic component of government.”
On Tuesday, Azar said such delays would be recognized in which states received additional doses. “If you do not use the vaccines you have, then we must reconsider the states that are,” Azar said. “Our states do not use 100% of their assigned vaccine.”
Part of the announcement included an expansion of federal partnerships with pharmacies to deliver shots, Azar said. Hospitals are not where most people go for vaccines, and moving to distribute shots to pharmacies in the community will help reach more people in low-income and minority communities hardest hit by the pandemic, he suggested.