WASHINGTON – Just a month after a mass vaccination campaign to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration unexpectedly shifted gears on Tuesday to speed up the delivery of shots. This move came after widespread concerns about a slow start, even when coronavirus cases and deaths reached new highs.
Health and Humanitarian Services Secretary Alex Hazard has announced a series of major changes to increase the supply of vaccines and expand the age range, as well as places where people can take pictures.
Lee Al Gainey, a resident of the county, is trying to get answers when his family will be vaccinated.
“You are trying to call these numbers and you can call Siberia or something like that to get these answers,”
A change will have some teeth. Hazard said that from now on, the federal government will base the distribution of vaccines in each state in part on how successful the states have been in administering those already provided.
“If you do not use the vaccines to which you are entitled, then we need to restore the balance to the countries that use this vaccine,” Hazard told a news conference. This will not happen overnight until employees try to decide whether a lag in reporting may be the reason for what appears to be sub-party performance.
Hazard also said the government would stop withholding the required second doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, virtually doubling supply. Both shots require two doses to achieve optimal protection.
“You want to get the vaccine as soon as possible, but you also want to protect those who are most at risk,” said Julie Swan, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of North Carolina who advised the CDC during the H1N1 response.
In addition, Washington is urging states to immediately start vaccinating other groups below the priority scale, including people aged 65 and over and younger people with certain health problems.
Swan said more access is good, as long as it is available.
“This is a frightening resource and I expect it to be limited for a longer period of time,” she explained. “It will take some time to cover the entire population of the United States.”
Ganey hopes that day will come sooner rather than later.
You rely on it to show up on time at your doctor’s office, and just like the flu vaccine, they will say, “Did you have the vaccine?” “Well, no, I’m not. You have to take it, “Ganey said.
The move to increase vaccine supply is better aligning the outgoing administration with the new Biden-Harris team. On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden said he would quickly release most available doses of vaccine to protect more people. He said he supported the immediate release of vaccines, which health authorities are holding back with caution to ensure they are available to people who need their second dose.
“This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation,” Hazard said. “Any dose of vaccine that stays in stock instead of getting into a hand can mean another death that could have been avoided.”
Initially, the government withheld second doses as a precaution against a potential production shortfall. Now employees say they are confident that the necessary supplies will be available. And people who need a second dose will have priority.
At the same time, Hazard gave the states the green light to provide more places where people could get pictures. These sites could include tens of thousands of pharmacies, federal health centers that serve low-income communities, and mass vaccination sites that have already been established in some states.
As of Monday morning, the government had distributed about 25.5 million doses to states, U.S. territories and major cities. But only about 9 million people received their first shot, according to the online tracker of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that only about 35% of the available vaccines have been given.
Initially, the shots went to health workers and residents of nursing homes. Those aged 75 and over were next in line. But problems arose even with the vaccination of this limited number of people. Some workers in hospitals and nursing homes are hesitant to get the vaccine. Problems with the schedule have created delays in obtaining photos in nursing homes.
Some states, including Arizona, have or plan to open mass vaccination centers to inoculate thousands of people a day in one place. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis opened vaccinations for people aged 65 and over. In other states, local health authorities have begun asking residents aged 65 and over to register, pending an expansion of the vaccination campaign.
Although Hazard said the change in strategy was a natural evolution of the Trump administration’s efforts, as early as Friday he raised questions about whether Biden’s call to speed up deliveries was reasonable.
On Tuesday, he also tried to dismiss the blame on the states for the slow absorption of vaccines. Hazard said some countries were “over-prescribed and trying to administer each dose of vaccine micro-times,” leading to bottlenecks.
Hazard also criticized what he called “hospitalization of the spread of vaccines”, saying that “we have too many vaccines that sit in the freezers in hospitals”.
State and local officials are sure to point out that it is the federal government that recommends placing health workers at the front of the vaccination line.
The Trump administration has focused efforts on developing, producing and supplying vaccines, hoping to avoid repeating earlier debates with coronavirus tests. Called Operation Warp Speed, it has produced two highly effective vaccines, many more on the way.
Each country has its own plan for who should be vaccinated based on CDC recommendations, which are paramount to health professionals and residents of nursing homes. Some critics say administration planning should have extended to helping states administer the shots once they were delivered. Congress recently approved more than $ 8 billion for this.
The slow spread of the vaccine has disappointed many Americans as coronavirus deaths continue to rise. More than 376,000 people in the United States have died, according to the Hopkins database.
Hazard said the rate of vaccinations has increased, recently reaching 700,000 a day and on track to reach 1 million a day. But the American Hospital Association estimates that 1.8 million vaccinations a day, seven days a week, are needed to achieve widespread immunity by the middle of this year. Biden has set a target of 100 million shots fired in the first 100 days.
“We are competing against this virus and, frankly, we are lagging behind,” US surgeon Jerome Adams told Fox & Friends. Public health advocates agree.
“Finally, we need to get as many vaccines in most weapons as possible, and we need to make sure people get the second dose – they don’t necessarily contradict each other,” said Chrissy Giuliano of Big Civil Health. a coalition representing heads of major metropolitan health services. “The measures for the prevention of public health that we want from people – to stay at home, to hide, social distance – do not take us where we should be. We must be brave and respond with new urgency. “
Biden is expected to give a speech on Thursday, outlining his plan to speed up vaccines to more people in the first part of his administration. His transition team has promised to release as many doses of vaccines as possible, instead of continuing what the Trump administration’s policy of withholding millions of doses to ensure there will be enough to allow those who receive the first shot, get the second.
Hazard said they would brief Biden’s team on the transition about the changes, but did not seek their blessing.
AP authors Candice Choi in New York, Carole Feldman in Washington, and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, RI, contributed.