President Donald Trump’s administration is asking states to release all COVID-19 vaccine doses, instead of holding some back.
Officials had implemented a strategy of keeping doses in reserve to guard against potential manufacturing issues.
“We’ve had so much success with quality and predictable manufacturing, and almost flawless distribution of the vaccine, but we have seen now that the administration in the states has been too narrowly focused,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Both of the authorized vaccines require two doses spaced several weeks apart.
One of the ways the administration is working on remedying issues that have plagued the vaccination program is to make available “every dose of the vaccine,” Azar added. “We had been holding back second doses as a safety stock. We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production. So everything is now available to our states and our healthcare providers.”
President-elect Joe Biden’s team said last week that the Biden administration would release nearly all doses after taking office as they continued to take aim at how the Trump administration’s rollout has fallen short of projections.
“He 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,” a spokesman said.
Health officials said last year they projected 20 million Americans getting vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2020. That number ended up being under 4 million. The “lag” has been pinned on states by some federal officials and on the Trump administration by some state officials.
As of Jan. 11, over 25 million doses have been distributed to states but the number of people that have been injected is under 9 million.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced that more people can get a COVID-19 vaccine, after weeks of restricting who got the shots. Over 1,000 pharmacies were expected to come online soon and accept reservations, while up to 20 mass vaccination sites are being set up by the state.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said the state’s success with quickly administering vaccines it receives from the federal government stems from relying on the National Guard and local pharmacies.
“We reacted to the fact that we would have vaccines sitting on the shelf,” he told CNBC. “And we reacted to the fact that age, age, age was driving this and these were the people that are dying, and we really aggressively got after it.”
Two other ways the Trump administration is seeking to smooth the vaccination program is to call on governors to vaccinate anyone 65 and older and anyone under 65 who has a comorbidity, Azar said Tuesday.
“We have got to expand the group. We’ve already distributed more vaccine than we have healthcare workers and people in nursing homes,” he said, referring to the first two groups that officials directed states to inject first.
Officials also have to work to expand the places where the vaccines are being administered, Azar continued, including adding pharmacies and community health centers and, potentially, mass vaccination events.
“It has been overly hospitalized so far in too many states,” he said.
Operation Warp Speed officials planned on sharing more details in a briefing later Tuesday.