WASHINGTON — With COVID-19 surging and vaccinations off to a slow start, President-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people, his office said Friday, a reversal of Trump administration policies.
“The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”
Biden’s plan is not about cutting two-dose vaccines in half, a strategy that top government scientists recommend against. Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner.
The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses of vaccine to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which provides maximum protection against COVID-19. It’s seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised questions about Biden’s plan, telling a hospital forum on Friday that “we’re pushing the system as much as I as secretary believe is ethically and legally appropriate.”
But a recent scientific analysis in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that a “flexible” approach roughly analogous to what Biden is talking about could avert an additional 23% to 29% of COVID-19 cases when compared to the “fixed” strategy the Trump administration is following. That’s assuming a steady supply of vaccine.
After a glow of hope when the first vaccines were approved last month, the nation’s inoculation campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden has indicated his displeasure with the progress of vaccinations.
“I think the way it’s being done now has been very, very sad,” he said at his news conference Friday.
The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” has delivered vaccines to the states, he said, “but did not get them from those vials into people’s arms,” he continued. “And so it is a gigantic logistical concern of how we do that.”
Biden says he intends to speed up vaccinations by having the federal government deliver more vaccines and take a stronger role ensuring that they are being administered.
The American Hospital Association estimates that the nation would need to vaccinate 1.8 million people a day, every day, from Jan. 1 to May 31, to reach the goal of having widespread immunity by the summer. That’s also called “herd immunity” and would involve vaccinating at least 75% of the population.
Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration. He’s previously said that he and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris have been talking with state and local leaders about meshing the efforts of governments at all levels. Among the specifics: opening up vaccination centres and sending mobile vaccine units to hard-to-reach communities.
The Biden transition office said its experts believe that pushing out available vaccine as fast as possible will not create problems for people needing their second dose. Biden will make broader use of a Cold War-era law to direct private industry to supply materials for vaccine production, should that become necessary, his office said. One-shot vaccines are moving through development.
Former Food and Drug Administration head Mark McClellan said he agrees with Biden’s decision, but the increased supply of vaccines has to be coupled with steps to get shots actually administered.
“We’re holding back more doses than we really need to,” McClellan said in an interview. But “this needs to be combined with steps to increase the administration of vaccines, or it won’t make much difference.” McClellan, who served under former Republican President George W. Bush, now leads a health policy centre at Duke University.
But Azar, President Donald Trump’s health secretary, said if vaccine production doesn’t increase Biden’s approach could lead could lead to “fits and starts” in vaccination. “What we’ve set up is a system that manages the flow, to maximize the number of first doses, but knowing there will be a second dose available,” Azar said, defending the Trump administration’s decision.
Biden announced his plan after eight Democratic governors wrote the Trump administration on Friday urging it to do as much.
“The federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back,” the governors wrote. “While some of these life-saving vaccines are sitting in Pfizer freezers, our nation is losing 2,661 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average. The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.”
The letter was signed by Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Newsom of California, Laura Kelly of Kansas, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.
With the winter wave of the pandemic pushing deaths to record levels, and hospitals overwhelmed in cities large and small, some have called on the government to authorize using just one dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That would indeed confer a boost of immunity.
However, government scientists including Dr. Anthony Fauci have said the vaccines should continue to be used as prescribed under their emergency approval by the FDA. The two-shot regimen provides around 95% protection.
More than 365,000 Americans have died as a result of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average positivity rate for the nation has continued to rise since Christmas, and stood at 13.6% on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s well above the 10% rate considered a marker of widespread contagion.
Biden spokesman Ducklo said the president-elect will share additional details next week.
Biden’s plan to change the vaccine distribution plan was first reported by CNN.
This story has been corrected to show that 21.4 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, not 29.4 million.
AP reporter Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Quebec reports 749 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths as province expands vaccine access – Toronto Star
Quebec continued to escalate its vaccination drive over the weekend, reporting Saturday that the past 24 hours had seen it deliver a single-day high of nearly 20,000 shots to its growing list of eligible residents.
The 19,865 jabs administered on Friday mark the most the province has reported in a single day and come as vaccine shipments ramp up across Canada following numerous international shipment delays.
To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 received from the federal government.
Provincial health minister Christian Dube highlighted the upward trend in a tweet on Saturday.
“Vaccinations have [increased] over the last few days and will continue to [increase], with other regions in addition to Montreal beginning mass vaccination next week,” Dube wrote.
Until recently, Quebec has concentrated its vaccination effort on particular groups such as health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in long-term care facilities.
The government began allowing members of the general public to schedule appointments to receive their vaccines recently, with eligibility varying by region. In Montreal and Laval, for example, people over the age of 70 can book appointments, while slots are restricted to people over 80 in other regions.
More regions are scheduled to expand vaccine access to those in different age groups starting next week.
In addition to the vaccine numbers, Quebec reported 749 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus.
Hospitalizations across the province declined by 16 to 601 over the past 24 hours, while the number of patients in intensive care declined by two to 109.
Quebec’s case numbers have stabilized in recent weeks, prompting officials to relax restrictions in some regions.
Starting on March 8, areas such as Estrie and Capitale-Nationale will be designated as “orange zones,” meaning the provincewide curfew will be extended until 9:30 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. More businesses, including restaurants, will also be allowed to open at limited capacity.
Quebec premier Francois Legault has said that Montreal and the surrounding areas will not see any imminent changes in public health restrictions, warning that more contagious variants of the virus could prompt a sharp uptick in the number of cases in the region.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.
Interior Health opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings Monday – Rossland Telegraph
Interior Health will open up its call centre on Monday for seniors to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
On Monday, seniors aged 90 and over, and Indigenous peoples aged 65 and over, can begin booking appointments by calling 1-877-740-7747. The call centre is open seven days per week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
We remind everyone to be vigilant against fraud. Call centres will never ask for financial information, credit card details, or social insurance numbers.
The call centre will only ask for:
- legal name
- date of birth
- postal code
- personal health number (PHN) from the back of B.C. driver’s licences or BC services cards, and
- current contact information, including an email address you or your family checks regularly or a phone number that can receive text messages.
The public is reminded to follow a staggered approach to prevent long waits and system overload.
- March 8, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
- March 15, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and
- March 22, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at the time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15, 2021.
To learn about B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan and the Phase 2 rollout, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst
For additional information on the immunization campaign, visit www.gov.bc.ca/covidvaccine
For more information on what to expect when you go to get vaccinated for COVID-19, visit: www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine/getting-a-vaccine
COVID-19 vaccination bookings start Monday for some Surrey seniors – Surrey Now-Leader – Surrey Now-Leader
Starting Monday (March 8), some Surrey seniors and Indigenous seniors and elders can start planning for their COVID-19 vaccine.
Over the next three weeks, seniors aged 80-plus and some of the Indigenous community will be able to book their appointment for their COVID-19 vaccine.
The age groups are based on the age people are turning in 2021.
First up is seniors aged 90-plus (born in 1931 or earlier) and Indigenous seniors and elders aged 65-plus (born in 1956 or earlier). They can call Fraser Health starting March 8, or any day after.
Then it’s seniors between the ages of 85 and 89 (born in 1936 or earlier). They can call starting March 15, or any day after.
Finally, seniors between the ages of 80 and 84 (born in 1941 or earlier) can call starting March 22, or any day after.
Fraser Health says immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15.
Surrey city council approved Fraser Health to operate mass vaccination sites at the Clayton Recreation Centre, Cloverdale Recreation Centre, Guildford Recreation Centre and South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre.
Bookings can be done online at fraserhealth.ca/vaccinebooking or by phone at 1-855-755-2455.
– With files from Tom Zytaruk
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