With virus surging, Biden to speed release of vaccines
WASHINGTON (AP) — With COVID-19 surging and vaccinations off to a slow start, President-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people, his office said Friday, a reversal of Trump administration policies.
“The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”
Biden’s plan is not about cutting two-dose vaccines in half, a strategy that top government scientists recommend against. Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner.
The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses of vaccine to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which provides maximum protection against COVID-19. It’s seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination.
But a recent scientific analysis in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that a “flexible” approach roughly analogous to what Biden is talking about could avert an additional 23% to 29% of COVID-19 cases when compared to the “fixed” strategy the Trump administration is following. That’s assuming a steady supply of vaccine.
After a glow of hope when the first vaccines were approved last month, the nation’s inoculation campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden has indicated his displeasure with the progress of vaccinations.
The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” has delivered vaccines to the states, he said, “but did not get them from those vials into people’s arms,” he continued. “And so it is a gigantic logistical concern of how we do that.”
Biden says he intends to speed up vaccinations by having the federal government deliver more vaccines and take a stronger role ensuring that they are being administered.
The American Hospital Association estimates that the nation would need to vaccinate 1.8 million people a day, every day, from Jan. 1 to May 31, to reach the goal of having widespread immunity by the summer.