The Trump administration on Tuesday announced some major changes to its Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy, saying it would release all available doses and calling on states to start vaccinating everyone age 65 and older and adults with certain health conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious infection.
The changes are meant to accelerate a vaccination drive that is far behind the administration’s original goals, a pace that has drawn sharp criticism from health experts and Democratic lawmakers. They represent a reversal for the administration, which had been holding back about half of its supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to ensure that the required second doses would be available. Those second doses are now expected to become available through the next waves of production.
The transition team for President-elect Joe Biden had said last week that it planned to quickly release all available doses of the vaccines, setting off a debate among health experts — and drawing criticism from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed officials.
Azar said Tuesday that the administration always planned on making the change once it was confident in vaccine production and distribution capabilities. “This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation we face,” Azar said, according to The New York Times. “Every vaccine dose that is sitting in a warehouse rather than going into an arm could mean one more life lost or one more hospital bed occupied.”
Why it matters: “These changes reflect a changing consensus about how best to distribute the vaccines — shifting away from a strict risk-based prioritization system, toward prioritizing getting as many shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible,” Axios explains. But the Times notes that the new strategy “threatens to create more confusion in states that had already articulated different plans for who should receive the vaccine next.”