Much to the chagrin of medical experts, health care providers, and many American citizens, the COVID vaccine rollout in the U.S. has been crawling behind schedule. One of the issues impeding the speed of the rollout is the guidelines on who can get the vaccine and when issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The guidelines were meant to ensure vaccines got to the populations that needed them the most, first focusing on health care workers and people in long-term care facilities. But many public health experts have cautioned that stringently adhering to these guidelines is what’s slowing things down. As a result, on Jan. 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced significant changes to the U.S.’s COVID vaccine rollout, which come after two Operation Warp Speed meetings over the past two days, CNN reports.
Read on for four key changes that could affect you, and before you get the vaccine, check out If You Take These OTC Meds, You Have to Stop Before Getting the Vaccine.
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Every dose of the vaccine is about to be made available.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar shared the details of the updated vaccine guidelines during an interview with Good Morning America on the morning of Jan. 12. First and foremost, Azar announced that the government has now “made available every dose of vaccine.”
“We had been holding back second doses as a safety stock,” Azar explained. “We now believe our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production.”
Later on Jan. 12, Azar spoke during a HHS press briefing on the updated rollout. He assured that the government’s “approach continues to ensure that there will be a second dose available” in the recommended amount of time. And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
States will start vaccinating other people beyond those in the highest priority groups.
“We’re calling on our governors to now vaccinate people age 65 and over and under age 65 with a comorbidity because we have got to expand the group,” Azar said on GMA.
He explained that states have sufficiently vaccinated the first group signaling that it’s time to move on. “We’ve already distributed more vaccine than we have health care workers and people in nursing homes,” Azar noted, saying that this and other changes to the vaccine rollout are in response to seeing “that the administration in the states has been too narrowly focused.”
During the press briefing, Azar said it’s time to open up vaccinations to more groups because “state restrictions on eligibility have obstructed speed and ability of administration.” Some states, including New York, Texas, and Florida, had already begun vaccinating these groups in the past couple of weeks. To see if you’re one of the few who shouldn’t get the shot, check out The Only 2 People Who Shouldn’t Get the COVID Vaccine, FDA Official Says.
The vaccine will soon be available at more pharmacies.
“We’ve got to get to more channels of administration. We’ve got to get it to pharmacies, get it to community health centers,” Azar said on GMA. “We will deploy teams to support states doing mass vaccination efforts if they wish to do so.” Azar added that he feels the vaccination campaign has been “overly hospitalized so far in too many states.”
On Jan. 5, an unnamed senior HHS official told Politico he predicted that within the coming weeks, 3,000 to 6,000 pharmacies could begin administering the vaccine. “I don’t think the average American is accustomed to going to their local hospital to get a vaccine,” the senior official said. “What we’re doing is just putting this into what we would call the more standard distribution channel that most Americans are accustomed to, which is the corner pharmacy.” To see which side effects you should expect from the shot, check out Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Warning About COVID Vaccine Side Effects.
The government is changing how they allocate vaccines to states.
Azar also said the way vaccines are doled out to states will be adjusted in two weeks. “We are changing how we allocate first doses among the states in order to ensure doses are being put to use and put to use for the most vulnerable,” Azar said during the briefing. “We will be allocating them based on the pace of administration as reported by states and by the size of the 65 and over population in each state.”
Azar said he felt this would help states report more accurate information about vaccinations and push them to utilize all the doses they get. For another recent vaccine update, check out The CDC Just Gave a Shocking COVID Vaccine Update.