The former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sunday warned that the U.S. strategy for administering the COVID-19 vaccine is “not working” and urged public health officials to develop a new strategy to speed up vaccinations across the country.
As the U.S. is experiencing a soaring number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, efforts to quickly get the critical COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of patients has lagged.
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So far, 22.1 million doses have been distributed across the country, with nearly 9 million people receiving the first shot of the two-dose vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Late last year, health officials had projected that 20 million people would receive the shot before the start of 2021.
The lack of a federal plan for getting the vaccines to millions of patients has left state and local officials in charge of the crucial final step, creating a patchwork of different strategies across the country.
“We really need to get this vaccine out more quickly because this is really our only tool, our only backstop against the spread of these new variants. If we can get a lot of people vaccinated quickly, we might be able to get enough protective immunity into the population that this stops spreading at the rate that it is,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, said during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“So, we need to acknowledge that it’s not working. We need to hit the reset and adopt a new strategy in trying to get out to patients,” he said.
Gottlieb has suggested releasing all available supply of the vaccine and to make the shots more widely available to those ages 65 and up. The Trump administration has been holding back half of the available doses to make sure there is enough supply for everyone who is getting a first dose to later get the second dose as well.
“You have 40 million [doses] on the shelf. You have 50 million Americans above the age of 65. So, we have supply to push it out to that population more aggressively,” he said.
President-elect Joe Biden last week announced he would release more COVID-19 vaccine doses immediately to administer as many shots as possible once he assumes office on Jan. 20. The Biden transition said it is confident Pfizer and Moderna can supply the government with additional doses as the ones in storage are released.
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