As cases of the coronavirus continue to surge across the country, the Trump administration is urging states to begin providing the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older.
Alongside older Americans, people with comorbidities and those at high risk of complications or death resulting from COVID-19 infection will also be urged to seek vaccination in January and February. The government intends to release all of the vaccines, including those held in reserve for second doses, in hopes of stemming the tide of COVID-19 cases and deaths. States, though, are not required to follow the recommendation to begin vaccinating anyone 65 and older.
“Because we now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. “We’re now making the full reserve of doses we have available for order. We are 100% committed to ensuring a second dose is available for every American who receives the first dose.”
If states do not quickly and efficiently begin administering the doses, they will lose their allocation, according to Azar. He urged states to begin allowing pharmacies, community centers, and “mega sites” like convention centers to begin administering shots. These locations often provide for underserved, poorer populations.
State vaccine allocations for COVID will also no longer be based on its general adult population. Instead, they will shift to the size of the population that is 65 and older.
The Trump administration’s new guidance deviates from advice given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Initially, the CDC recommended a more measured process, beginning with vaccinations for essential workers, healthcare workers, nursing home residents, and people 75 years and older.
While many experts support the notion of more Americans receiving vaccinations, some voiced concerns over the more complicated process initiated by the Trump administration’s decision. Allowing COVID-19 vaccines to be given to those under 65 with comorbidities means that a number of people, including those with diabetes and high blood pressure, could receive a vaccine in the coming weeks.
The distinction of who qualifies under the administration’s new recommendation is hazy. Healthcare experts warn that this could complicate matters as people begin seeking vaccinations.
Experts also warn that the issue was never a lack of manufacturing. Instead, it was typically disorganization on a national and local level that has led to the U.S. massively missing its inoculation goals. As of mid-January, about 10 million Americans had been vaccinated, far short of the end-of-2020 goal of 20 million.
President-elect Joe Biden’s team announced on Jan. 8 the incoming administration’s intent to release almost all vaccines from the nation’s reserves. Azar initially criticized this plan, before ultimately changing his mind.
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