Responding to growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the United States would increase deliveries to struggling states over the next three weeks and expect to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by late summer or early fall.
Biden, calling the surge a “war effort,” said the administration was working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that in recent weeks, states have been left guessing at how much vaccine they would have from week to week.
The shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites in the United States have had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first injection.
“This is unacceptable,” Biden said. “Lives are at stake.”
He promised an increase of about 16% in shipments to states over the next three weeks.
The administration said it plans to purchase an additional 100 million doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough long-term vaccines. Even more vaccines could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency clearance in the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week’s allocation of 8.6 million. The numbers represent the doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the dose surge could be sustained.
Governors and senior health officials are increasingly sounding the alarm bells about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of the amount of vaccines on the way so they can plan.
Biden’s team held its first virus-related appeal with the country’s governors on Tuesday and pledged to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks before delivery.
Biden’s announcement came a day after he became more optimistic about going beyond his vaccine promise to deliver 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be reached.
The administration also pledged more openness and said it would hold press briefings three times a week, starting Wednesday, on the outbreak that has killed more than 420,000 Americans.
“We appreciate the administration announcing that it will provide states with slightly higher allocations for the next few weeks, but we will need a lot more supply,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.
The setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by poor communication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses sit on the shelves.
Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best vaccine delivery rates, said they had less than 11,000 first doses on hand, even after this week’s shipment.
“I’m screaming my head” for more, said Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
California, which has been criticized for the slow rollout of the vaccine, said on Tuesday it was centralizing its mishmash of county systems and streamlining enrollment, notification and appointment eligibility. Residents were baffled by the varying rules across counties.
And in Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the federal government’s limited supply of vaccines is prompting the state to reuse second doses as first doses, although he expects people expected for their second injection can still meet their appointments. .
The weekly allocation cycle for the first doses begins on Monday evening, when federal officials examine vaccine availability data from manufacturers to determine how much each state can have. Allowances are based on the population of people 18 years of age and over in each jurisdiction.
States are notified on Tuesdays of their allocations through a computer network called Tiberius and other channels, after which they can specify where they want the doses shipped. Deliveries begin the following Monday.
A similar but separate process for ordering second doses, which are to be administered three to four weeks after the first, begins each week on Sunday evening.
Total coverage: Coronavirus vaccine
As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC reported that just over half of the 44 million doses distributed to states had been put in people’s arms. That’s well below the hundreds of millions of doses that experts say will need to be administered to gain herd immunity and beat the epidemic.
The United States ranks fifth in the world for the number of doses administered relative to the country’s population, behind No.1 Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford .
It’s not entirely clear why most of the injections available in the United States have not been distributed. But many vaccination sites apparently have large amounts of vaccine in reserve to ensure that people who have already received their first vaccine receive the required second vaccine on time.
Additionally, some state officials have complained about a time lag between when they report their immunization numbers to the government and when the numbers are posted on the CDC’s website.
In the New Orleans area, Ochsner Health said Monday that insufficient supply forced the cancellation of 21,400 first-dose appointments last week, but second-dose appointments are not affected. .
In North Carolina, Greensboro-based Cone Health announced it was canceling first-dose appointments for 10,000 people and placing them on a wait list due to supply issues.
Jesse Williams, 81, of Reidsville, North Carolina, said his appointment Thursday with Cone Health was canceled and he was waiting to find out when it could be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter had hoped the vaccine would allow him to resume attending church, playing golf and seeing friends.
“It’s just a frustration that we expected to have our shots and be a little more resistant to COVID-19,” he said.
The deployment of the vaccine in the 27 countries of the European Union has also encountered roadblocks and has also been criticized as being too slow. Pfizer delays deliveries as it modernizes its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca has revealed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens, demands that pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on time.
Associated Press editors in the United States contributed to this report.
Find full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic by AP at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic