US Finally Hits Its Stride With COVID-19 Vaccination

Editor’s Note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and advice in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Each afternoon, Cyrus Shahpar, MD, the data guru for the White House COVID-19 response team, emails staff members with the daily count of COVID-19 vaccinations delivered to states -United.

The numbers, collected from states before the final numbers were released on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, act as a sort of balance sheet of the team’s efforts.

On Saturday, April 3, it was a new record: 4.1 million vaccines delivered in a single day, more than the total population of some states.

While the United States has a long way to go before it is done with COVID-19, there is finally good news in the country’s long, awkward journey through the pandemic.

After a difficult start in December and January, the vaccination is proceeding faster than most everyone would have thought possible. As more and more people see their friends and family rolling up their sleeves, the reluctance is also decreasing.

In settings where large numbers of people are vaccinated, such as nursing homes, COVID-19 cases and deaths have plummeted.

These gains, however, were not shared equally. According to CDC data, 69% of fully vaccinated people are white, while only 8% are black and about 9% are Hispanic, a group that now accounts for most new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say this is in part because the vaccines were first distributed to the elderly. The average life expectancy of blacks in the United States is now 72 years, meaning there were fewer people of color represented in the early groups to become eligible. Experts hope under-represented groups start to catch up as more states open up vaccination to young people.

Based on the total number of daily doses of vaccines, the United States ranks third, behind China and India. America ranks fourth – behind Israel, the United Kingdom and Chile – in the total share of the population vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data website.

A positive development

It’s a staggering turnaround for a country that failed for months to develop effective tests and still struggles in some neighborhoods to investigate new cases and quarantine its contacts.

The 7-day moving average of vaccines administered in the United States is currently over 3 million per day.

“We knew we had to hit 3 million a day at some point if we were to get most people vaccinated this year, but I don’t think most people expected it to happen so soon.” said Eric Toner, MD, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland.

Before taking office, President Joe Biden pledged to get 100 million bullets in the first 100 days of his term. After reaching this goal at the end of March, he doubled it, to 200 million vaccinations by April 30. After initially stating that all adults should be eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1 on Tuesday, he pushed that date back to April 19. .

Some media reports saw this repeated shift in goals as calculated – an undeclared strategy of under-promising and over-delivering in an effort to restore public confidence.

But others point out that even if it is true, the goals set are not easy and reaching them has never been achieved.

“I think the Biden administration really takes a lot of credit for pushing companies to release more vaccines faster than they expected,” Toner said. “And the states have really reacted as well as the federal government when it comes to setting up vaccination sites. So not only are we getting the vaccines, but we are getting them into people’s arms faster than expected ”.

Others agree.

“We’re doing an incredible job, and I think the United States is really starting to bend the curve,” said Carlos del Rio, MD, infectious disease specialist and distinguished professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. .

“I think overall it’s just that everyone is doing a ton of work to get there,” he said.

On Saturday, the day the United States hit their vaccination record, he volunteered to do vaccinations.

“I mean, of all the bad things that we do to people as clinicians, that’s one thing people are very happy about, right?” said del Rio.

He said he vaccinated a young woman who asked him if she could video chat with his mother, who was feeling nervous about getting the shot. He answered his mother’s questions, and later that day she came to get the vaccine herself.

We see it as a war

The White House COVID-19 response team has worked hard to better coordinate the work of so many at the federal and state levels, said Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the team, in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

“We see it as a war, and in a war you do everything: you bring in experienced personnel; you bring all the resources you need; you create multiple routes,” Slavitt said. “You leave nothing to chance.”

Among the levers the administration pulled, the use of the Defense Production Act helped vaccine makers secure needed supplies, Slavitt said.

The administration has set up a range of community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination sites run by FEMA to complement state-led efforts, and it has activated a federal health law called the Health Preparedness Act. Public and Emergency Preparedness (PREP), which provides for retired doctors and nurses, among others, who sign up to help with immunizations. It helped get more people on the ground to kick things.

The administration also canceled a plan to allocate vaccines to states based on their rate of administration, which would have punished underperforming states. Instead, doses are assigned based on population.

During an April 7 media call, when asked if the administration would be sending additional vaccines to Michigan, a state that is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases with more transmissible variants, Slavitt said that ‘he was not managing the vaccine supply “on a formula basis.”

He said they were distributing by population “because it’s fundamental”, but also locating the vaccines “surgically in the places that have had the greatest disease and where people are most at risk.” .

He said sites like community health centers and retail pharmacies have the authority to order vaccines directly from the federal government, which helps boost supplies to the hardest hit areas.

Slavitt said receiving 4.1 million daily vaccinations last Saturday was gratifying.

“I’ve seen pictures … of people breaking down in tears when they get their shots, people giving standing ovations to serving military people for taking care of them,” he said, “and I think of the people who left for a long time without hope, or who were very afraid. “

“It’s incredibly encouraging to think of maybe a few million people coming back to their normal lives,” he said.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Leave a Reply