Other states had planned to gradually expand access to older residents over the next month. Ohio, for example, was scheduled to start vaccinating people 80 and over next week, people 70 and over on February 1, and those 65 and over on February 8. Florida has been overwhelmed by demand from its population 65 and over, with registration portals quickly collapsing and people spending hours on the phone or in long lines, often to no avail.
The two vaccine companies with emergency approval, Pfizer and Moderna, are both ramping up production. In an interview with TBEN on Tuesday, Pfizer chief executive Dr Albert Bourla said Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech had increased their estimate of global production this year to two billion doses from 1.3 billion .
“We have a lot more than they can currently use,” he said.
The CDC recommended last month that after immunizing healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, states should immunize people over the age of 75 and some “frontline” workers who do not. cannot do their homework. Only after that, the CDC advised, should states turn to people aged 65 to 74 and adults of all ages with high-risk health conditions. The CDC’s recommendations were not binding, but many states have largely followed them as demand still greatly exceeds supply.
The advisory group that made the recommendations pointed out that essential workers are often low-paid people of color, who have been disproportionately hit by the virus.
“Many of our members feel that this is just starting to move too quickly,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials. “We’re going to come to a first-come, first-served approach to vaccine distribution, and it just won’t be fair.”
Mr Biden is expected to announce the details of his own vaccination plan – which will include federally-backed mass vaccination clinics – this week. Biden’s transition team declined to comment on the Trump administration’s new policy on Tuesday. But a person familiar with the president-elect’s plans said Mr Biden also plans to expand the universe of those eligible for vaccination.
Mr Azar said the Trump administration always expected to stop withholding doses when it was confident in the supply chain.