Public health experts blamed the COVID-19 vaccine shortages in the United States on Thursday in part on the Trump administration’s efforts to get states to dramatically expand their vaccination campaigns to reach the 54 million people aged 65 and over. years and older.
The surge that began over a week ago has not been accompanied by sufficient doses to meet demand, state and local authorities say, leading to frustration and confusion and limited ability of states to attack the epidemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
In recent days, authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii have warned that their supplies are running out. New York City has started canceling or postponing shootings or stopping making new appointments due to shortages, which President Joe Biden has vowed to address. Florida’s top health official said the state would address the shortage by restricting vaccines to residents of the state.
The vaccine rollout so far has been “a big disappointment,” said Dr Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
The problems started with the Trump administration’s “fatal mistake” of not ordering enough vaccines, which was later picked up by other countries, Topol said. Then, opening the line up to the seniors made people disappointed because there wasn’t enough vaccine, he said. The Trump administration also left crucial planning to states and failed to provide the necessary funding.
“It doesn’t happen through fairy dust,” Topol said. “You have to invest funds in it.”
Last week, before Biden took over the presidency, the US Department of Health and Human Services suggested the frustration was the result of unrealistic expectations by states about the amount of vaccines on their way.
But some public health experts said states were not receiving reliable information on vaccine shipments and the quantities sent to them were unpredictable. This, in turn, made it difficult for them to plan how to immunize people.
“It’s kind of having to build it up as you go,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s an initial supply issue, and unless we know how many vaccines are going through the pipe, it’s hard to size these products right, staff them, get people in, get them in, get vaccinated and make them go away.
Secretaries of State for Health have asked the Biden administration for earlier and more reliable forecasts of vaccine deliveries, Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said.
Dr Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials was also among those who said opening vaccinations to older people was made too early, before the offer could catch up with its delay.
“We needed consistent federal leadership on this early on in the launch,” Plescia said. “That hasn’t happened, and now that we’re not prioritizing groups, there is going to be some delay for supply to catch up with demand.”
The supply will resume over the next few weeks, he said. Shipments are sent to the states every week, and the government and drug makers have given assurances that large quantities are in progress.
The deployment proceeded at a disappointing pace. The U.S. government has delivered nearly 38 million doses of the vaccine to states, and about 17.5 million of these have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 2.4 million people have received the two necessary doses, according to the CDC tally – well below the hundreds of millions that will need to be vaccinated to defeat the …
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