WASHINGTON – 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 its inauguration, rather than holding back millions of vials to ensure a second dose is 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 sharp debate among public health experts. The two vaccines that have received an emergency approval each require two doses, and the Trump administration has so far withheld about half of their supplies to ensure that booster doses are available for the vaccines already vaccinated.
Officials at 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. However, the announcement by the Biden administration 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 – whose advice Mr Biden has promised – has spoken strongly against it A change in the dosage regimen, as decided by some other countries, is said to be “premature and not firmly anchored in the available evidence”. Some public health experts fear that the decision would delay the second dose.
However, others called it a smart move, saying it was imperative to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible – as long as the second dose is not delayed. The Biden team said they were confident the supply would be sufficient and that if necessary, Mr Biden would use 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 T.J. 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 cans to states that request them is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” wrote the governors in the letter, This was obtained from the New York Times and sent on Friday to Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II and General Gustave F. Perna, who is in charge of vaccine distribution.
“We demand that the federal government distribute these reserved cans to states immediately,” the letter said.
Mr. Biden’s pledge of 100 million gun shots is ambitious, and the Trump administration’s rocky rollout, which Mr. Biden called “a travesty” on Friday, didn’t make 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 transition of the president
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 the administration of vaccines.
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.
Speak at a press conference on FridayStephen M. Hahn, the F.D.A. Commissioner, urged states that have used only a small portion of their supply 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.
Biden’s advisors did not discuss the rest of their plan to revise vaccine distribution. More details will be released next week. Mr Biden has always promised a far more muscular federal response than Mr Trump’s approach of leaving it to the states, and he outlined his vision in public appearances and interviews with local radio stations as he fought for the Georgia candidate earlier this week democratic senate.
“Our plan will focus on getting shots in the arms through, among other things, introducing a fundamentally new approach, establishing thousands of government-run or government-sponsored community vaccination centers of various sizes in places like high schools and N.F.L. Stadiums, ”said Biden during an interview with WFXE-FM in Columbus, Ga.
“And,” he continued, “they can be directed by federal workers, contractors and volunteers, including FEMA, the Emergency Management Group, Centers for Disease Control, the US military and the National Guard.”
A person familiar with Mr Biden’s vaccination schedule said it would take time to set up mass vaccination sites. Mr Biden himself said Friday that the vaccination effort would be “the greatest operational challenge we will ever face as a nation” – one that would cost “billions of dollars”.
Joshua M. Sharfstein, a former top F.D.A. An official, now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said mobile units were especially important in reaching people in rural areas as well as underserved populations where transportation or lack of interest was an obstacle to vaccination.
“We need to make the vaccine readily available to the people who are excited to get it now, and we need to go out and reach people who are at particular risk but still have questions or are unable to get it to vaccination sites create, “said he said. “If we only vaccinate people who are excited to be vaccinated, we will miss people who really need to be vaccinated and deserve special access.”
However, the dosage schedule is a major complication. Boosters for Moderna’s vaccine must be given four weeks after administration. For the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, the interval is three weeks. On Friday, World Health Organization officials made recommendations that the interval between two doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be doubled to six weeks. But the F.D.A. did not approve such postponement.
Mr Biden, who received the vaccine almost three weeks ago, will be given his second dose on Monday, spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters on Friday.
With the virus raging across the country and more than 367,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, some experts have expressed hope that accelerating vaccine adoption would help bring the pandemic under control.
However, there is not enough data yet to know what effect the vaccine has on the transmission of the virus. And without knowing how the vaccine will affect transmission, it’s impossible to predict whether vaccinating more people will lower the number of cases.
Models describing the effects of the first doses in front loading are fascinating, said Olivia Prosper, a math modeler at the University of Tennessee.
But while “they have a lot of food for thought and some hypotheses to test,” it is still premature to use them for public policy information, she said. Models also have their limitations, she noted, as most ignore the country’s tiered vaccination strategy, which prioritizes people with high exposure and high risk for early shots.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported from Washington and Katherine J. Wu from New York.