The United States will end the year by vaccinating far fewer people against the coronavirus than expected, senior Trump administration officials have admitted, with states having used only about a fifth of the doses they were given in the past. over the past three weeks.
Officials at U.S. public health agencies said a combination of the holiday season, bad weather and complex vaccination procedures led to a decline in the number of healthcare workers and people living in nursing homes. vaccinated this year than expected.
Authorities aimed to distribute enough doses to immunize 20 million people by the end of the year, but recently admitted they are unlikely to meet this target until early January, having underestimated the time it would take to perform quality checks on manufactured doses.
Figures released by the federal government, however, show that a bigger obstacle is getting vaccines to people once they’ve been made and shipped. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that just under 2.6 million people in the country had been vaccinated, even though 12.4 million doses had been distributed.
Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, which US President Donald Trump has put in place to speed up the vaccination process, told reporters: “We agree that the number [of vaccinated people] is lower than we expected. ”
Some states have said vaccinations are underreported and that the actual number of vaccines given will be higher than that reported to and by the CDC. However, Mr Slaoui said such data glitches would not capture the extent of the gap, adding, “We know it should be better, and we are working hard to improve it.”
Mr. Slaoui did not explain why he believed the targets were not being met.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, implicated a series of factors. She said part of the problem was that pharmacies, which are largely responsible for vaccinating people in nursing homes, had waited to make appointments until they could be sure they were ” have enough doses for booster injections.
She also said hospitals and care homes were unprepared to start their immunization programs in the middle of the Christmas holidays, with staff absent and already insufficient resources.
“We have to remember that these are new vaccines on new platforms with slightly complex requirements for storage, handling and administration,” she said.
“And we are launching a vaccination campaign in the midst of a pandemic wave, after years of exhausted and strained health care and public health service providers.”
The pace of the vaccination rollout will be critical in curbing the spread of the disease in the United States, where nearly 330,000 people have died.
Henry Walke, the head of Covid-19 incidents at the CDC, said on Wednesday that he was thinking about the new variant of the disease that caused a huge peak in cases and hospitalizations in the UK, was now spreading to the US. The country reported their first case of the new strain, which scientists say is much easier to pass this week to a Colorado man with no travel history.
“The lack of reported travel history suggests that this variant is passed from person to person in the United States,” said Dr Walke, adding that this could put a strain on the “heavily burdened health systems” of the United States. country.
President-elect Joe Biden this week sounded the alarm over the slow pace of vaccination, saying that at current rates it would take years to vaccinate everyone in the United States. Mr Biden’s allies have spoken in recent weeks about overhauling the federal government’s distribution plans to allow his administration to take more direct control of the process, rather than leaving so much care to the states.
Officials and medical experts say they expect the pace of vaccination to accelerate rapidly in the new year, once people return to work and clinics and pharmacies become more confident in their health. administration.
Dr Messonnier said: “I really think these numbers are going to increase rapidly next week.”