How Many Americans Will Be Vaccinated by Summer? White House Gives Update
The goal of vaccinating every American by the summer of 2021 may have to be adjusted. In its first briefing Wednesday, the new White House COVID-19 response team acknowledged that vaccinating all U.S. adults who want one will take months.
During the online briefing Wednesday, Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt said the administration is striving to meet its goal of ensuring enough vaccine supply by summer, but acknowledged there could be some hurdles that will prevent that timeline.
The briefing was held one day after newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden announced plans to acquire an additional 200 million mRNA vaccine doses from both Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech.
Despite that plan, Slavitt and other advisers said that goal could be hampered by both the vaccine supply and the ability to administer shots, The Washington Post reported.
While the White House cannot will faster manufacturing of vaccines, the president will use his executive authority to increase the pool of healthcare officials who can administer the shots.
The president will recruit retired doctors and nurses to administer the doses of vaccines. According to the Post, Jeff Zients, Biden’s coordinator of the federal vaccine response, said the White House will order the Department of Health and Human Services to enact the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP) that shields health-care workers from most legal liability under emergency circumstances.
What this can do is not only help recruit the retired healthcare workers to administer the shots, but will also allow doctors and nurses who are licensed to practice medicine in one state to administer vaccine doses in another state, the Post reported.
Despite these hindrances, the White House remains committed to administering at least 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines per day in order to reach the goal of 100 million doses within Biden’s first 100 days of office.
“So far this week, we've been hitting our target of an average of 1 million vaccinations per day necessary to meet the president's early commitment to administer 100 million shots in 100 days,” Slavitt said, according to NPR.
However, Slavitt also acknowledged that any vaccine stockpile that may have existed no longer does. All available medications have been shipped out. Johnson & Johnson predicts the release of its COVID-19 vaccine Phase III data next week. If that data is strong enough, it will quickly seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Another action the government is taking is the acquisition of special syringes that will ensure none of the vaccines are wasted when administering the medication. These low dead space syringes are touted as being able to extend the number of doses per vaccine vial, which will also help to increase the number of vaccinated individuals.
One key takeaway from Wednesday’s briefing was the decision to let the scientists and science lead the battle against COVID-19, which has taken the lives of more than 429,000 Americans. Rochelle P. Walensky, the new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was among those championing the voice of science during briefings, Wednesday.
“I want to make sure science is leading the way, that the voices and the subject matter experts within this agency are again heard,” Walensky said during a briefing with colleagues, according to the Post.
In addition to allowing science to lead the way in the pandemic fight, Zients also promised the COVID response team will be transparent.
"We will not always know the answers to your questions," Zients said, as cited by NPR. "When we don't, we'll tell you. We will update you on our progress and will be open about setbacks along the way. We will be honest, transparent and straightforward with the American people.”