In a sharp break with the Trump administration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to release almost all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine soon after his inauguration, rather than holding back millions of vials to ensure second doses are available.
The decision is part of an aggressive effort “to make sure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” the Biden transition team said Friday. The vaccination schedule, which will be officially unveiled next week, also includes government-run vaccination sites in places like high schools and sports stadiums, as well as mobile units to reach high-risk populations.
The president-elect has vowed to “get at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
The decision to release the vast majority of vaccine doses sparked a heated debate among public health experts. The two vaccines that have received emergency approval each require two doses, and the Trump administration has so far withheld about half of their offer to ensure that booster doses are available for the vaccines already vaccinated.
Officials from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccination program, had determined that the dosage would no longer be tied after the first few weeks of the rollout. The announcement by the Biden administration, however, sets the clearest standard for frontloading recordings to date and distributes them as soon as they are available. And Warp Speed officials criticized the president-elect’s decision on Friday.
The Food and Drug Administration – the advice of which Mr Biden has promised – has spoken out strongly against a change in the dosage regimen, as decided by some other countries, and has described such a move as “premature and not firmly anchored in the available evidence”. “Some public health experts fear that the decision will delay the second dose.
However, others called it a wise move, saying it was imperative to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible – as long as the second dose isn’t delayed. The Biden team said they were confident the supply would be sufficient and that if necessary, Mr Biden would refer to the Defense Production Act to improve the supply of second doses.
“The president-elect believes we need to accelerate the spread of the vaccine while ensuring that the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for the Biden transition team.
The announcement that Mr Biden intended to release additional doses coincided with a letter from eight Democratic governors – including Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who both clashed with President Trump – urging the current administration to all available doses to be released to the states as soon as possible.
“The failure to distribute these doses to states that request them is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” wrote the governors in the letter received by the New York Times and sent to Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II and Gen on Friday Gustave F. Perna, who is responsible for distributing the vaccines.
“We demand that the federal government distribute these reserved cans to states immediately,” the letter said.
Mr. Biden’s pledge of 100 million firearms is ambitious, and the rocky rollout of the Trump administration, which Mr. Biden called “travesty” on Friday, hasn’t made his job any easier. By Thursday, the Trump administration had shipped more than 21 million doses of vaccine, and millions more were already in the hands of the federal government.
Yet only 5.9 million people had received a dose. State and local health officials, already overwhelmed by rising infections, are struggling to deliver the vaccine to hospital workers and at-risk older Americans, while most people remain in the dark as to when they could be protected.
The biggest problem so far has not been the shortage of vaccines, but the difficulty state and local governments face in distributing their doses. Capacity and logistics, not bottlenecks, prevent vaccine delivery.
Dr. Leana S. Wen, an emergency physician and public health expert at the George Washington University School of Public Health, said she was surprised and concerned about Mr. Biden’s new strategy.
“This is not the problem we are trying to solve right now,” said Dr. Whom.
Operation Warp Speed officials were also critical.
At a press conference on Friday, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the FDA commissioner, states that have used only a small portion of their offerings to vaccinate lower priority groups while continuing to adhere to government guidelines. Most states still prioritize frontline health workers and older Americans in group housing settings.
Expanding audiences “will go a long way towards using these vaccines appropriately and getting them into the arms of individuals,” said Dr. Rooster.