HHS Secretary Recommends Open Shots to States for Older Americans, Vulnerable Groups

Secretary of State for Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Wednesday called on states to take action against “micro-management” of “coronavirus vaccine doses”, saying it was better to take the shots as quickly as possible, even if they could not vaccinate all health professionals. their employees.

“There’s no reason states should stop, say, vaccinate all health care providers before opening vaccinations to older Americans or other particularly vulnerable populations,” Azar told reporters at a news conference.

“If all the vaccines that are distributed, ordered, distributed, delivered are used and end up in the arms of healthcare providers, that’s very good,” he added. “But if, for some reason, they have difficulty distributing it and have a vaccine freezer, you should definitely open it to people 70 and older.”

U.S. officials are trying to pick up the pace of vaccinations after a slower-than-expected initial introduction. The U.S. coronavirus epidemic continues to accelerate, with the nation registering at least 219,200 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,670 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has provided states with a draft outlining the priority of homes for health care workers and nursing homes, but states can distribute the vaccine as they see fit.

Azar said Wednesday that states that provide some “flexibility” around who gets the first doses are “the best way to get more shots“ faster. ”“ Faster administration can now save lives, which it means we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, ”he said.

More than 4.8 million people in the U.S. received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET, according to the CDC. That number is far from the federal government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and 50 million Americans by the end of this month.

U.S. officials acknowledged that the spread of vaccines was slower than expected. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told STAT News on Tuesday that the introduction of the vaccine is expected to accelerate “quite massively” in the coming weeks.

“It’s an early stage of a really complicated task, but it’s a task we’re looking forward to,” the woman told STAT.

Global health experts say the distribution of 331 million Americans in vaccines could prove to be much more complicated and chaotic in months than originally thought. In addition to producing enough doses, states and territories also need enough needles, syringes, and bottles to complete vaccinations.

The logistics of obtaining and administering the vaccine require complex, specialized training. For example, Pfizer requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Neither Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines can be re-frozen and must be administered at room temperature within hours, otherwise there is a risk of spoilage.

Read more: The long way for Covid vaccine: How doses get from the manufacturing plant to your arm

Azar also said the holidays may have played a role in the slow introduction of vaccines, saying health care providers knew it was difficult to list millions of people for vaccinations by December.

Nearly 20 million doses of vaccine have been delivered to more than 13,000 locations in the country, General Gustave Perna, who oversees the logistics of President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed ​​vaccination program, said at the same briefing.

Dissemination of the vaccines is “going very well,” he said, adding that officials are still working to improve the process. “Our goal is to maintain a constant drum beat so that states have an allocation to plan for allocation and then the appropriate allocation to designated appropriate locations.”

“We always re – evaluate the numbers, making sure the distribution is in the right place [and] to make sure that implementation is done in such a way that other decisions on allocations can be made, “he added.