Is the U.S. headed toward a vaccine surplus?

National guard soldiers sorting through the U.S. COVID vaccine surplus
Photo via New York National Guard/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A surprising but not unwelcome shift has begun occurring within the United States, as what was only months ago a shortage of vaccines has become a surplus. Vaccine production is still going strong, and soon the U.S. will have more doses of vaccine than arms to put them in. 

So far in the pandemic, the U.S. has administered 150 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Bloomberg. In the last week of March 2021, an average of 2.83 million doses were administered every day. Appointments to receive a vaccine, initially challenging to come by, have become more accessible as stockpiles of the vaccine increase. 

Soon, experts say the U.S. will be facing a surplus of vaccines. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believes the U.S. will, “in the weeks to month ahead,” go from needing more vaccines to having too many.

As noted by Technology Review, some states are already experiencing a disconnect between supply and demand. In Idaho, enough vaccine appointments have been missed for the state to increase eligibility early. Rather than waste the 200,000 appointments available each week, almost all Idaho citizens can now get the vaccine.

Currently, only one group is excluded from eligibility, but that’s set to change on April 5, when every Idaho citizen over the age of 16 can get vaccinated, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

A number of Native American communities are likewise running ahead of schedule. 

Experts believe the U.S. will need to reach a vaccination rate of around 80% to accomplish herd immunity, a goal we are fast approaching. Current projections point to 70% vaccination by the end of June. 

There are still concerns over vaccine hesitancy and the spread of anti-vax misinformation, but the U.S. will soon have more than enough vaccines to inoculate both its eager and its hesitant citizens. Extra COVID-19 vaccines, which the U.S. is certain to have, will be donated to other countries

Once all Americans are vaccinated, President Joe Biden intends to send any leftover doses to other parts of the world. The U.S. has been criticized for hoarding more vaccine doses than necessary, but officials say the extra doses may be needed in the instance of a manufacturing emergency.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccines:

Sources: Bloomberg, Technology Review, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

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