US vaccine roll-out falls short of 20 million jabs by end of 2020

About 2.8 million people have received a vaccine, far short of a government target of 20 million by the end of the year.

Registered nurse Susana Flores Villamil waits to vaccinate people with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Miami, Florida's Jackson Memorial Hospital on December 30 [Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

The race to vaccinate millions of Americans against COVID-19 is off to a slow start, with only about 2.8 million Americans having received a vaccine going into the last day of 2020, putting the United States far short of the government’s target to vaccinate 20 million people this month.

About 14 million doses of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines have been distributed to states so far, federal officials told reporters on Wednesday.

Shots are reaching nursing home residents at an even slower pace than others first in line even though they are most at risk of dying of the virus.

Only 170,000 people in long-term care facilities received a shot as of December 30, even though 2.2 million doses were distributed for residents, according to data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Terry Beth Hadler was so eager to get a lifesaving COVID-19 vaccination that the 69-year-old piano teacher stood in line overnight in a parking lot with hundreds of other senior citizens for.

Hadler told The Associated Press news agency she would not do it again.

Hadler said she waited 14 hours and a brawl nearly erupted before dawn on Tuesday when people cut in line outside the library in Bonita Springs, Florida, where officials were offering shots on a first-come, first-served basis to those 65 or older.

“I’m afraid that the event was a super-spreader,” she said. “I was petrified.”

Unmet goal

Overworked, underfunded state public health departments are scrambling to patch together plans for administering vaccines. Counties and hospitals have taken different approaches, leading to long lines, confusion, frustration and jammed phone lines.

On December 4, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told the Reuters news agency that vaccinating 20 million Americans by year-end was realistic, depending on the vaccination campaign.

Since then, officials have said they are committed to making enough doses available without commenting on targets for actual vaccinations as it has become clear that inoculations are falling short of the number of doses distributed.

Coronavirus vaccine
Vials of COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2 are sorted at a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium in an undated still image from a video [File: Pfizer/Handout via Reuters]

A multitude of logistical concerns has complicated the process of trying to beat back the scourge that has killed more than 340,000 people in the US, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

Dr Ashish Jha, a health policy researcher and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health said the main problem is that states are not getting adequate financial or technical support from the federal government.

Jha told the AP news athe Trump administration, principally the Department of Health and Human Services, has set states up to fail.

“There’s a lot states still need to do,” he said, “but you need a much more active role from the federal government than what they have been willing to do. They’ve largely said to states, ‘This is your responsibility. Figure it out.’”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asked for patience on Wednesday, noting the vaccine supply is limited.

“It may not be today for everyone, may not be next week. But over the next many weeks, as long as we continue getting the supply, you’re going to have the opportunity to get this,” DeSantis said.

A US Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said in a statement the “rapid availability and distribution of so many doses – with 20 million first doses allocated for distribution just 18 days after the first vaccine was granted emergency use authorization – is a testament to the success of Operation Warp Speed”.

Doses that have been allocated but not distributed will ship in January.

Pharmacy technicians received a delivery of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, on December 14, 2020 [File: John Maniaci/UW Health/Handout via Reuters]

The government said that for every dose shipped, it is keeping a second dose in reserve as well as a safety stock, which would bring the total number of vaccine doses closer to 40 million.

US vaccinations of the country’s 21 million healthcare workers began on December 14. Inoculations of the country’s three million nursing home residents, who are also in the first priority group, started shortly afterwards.

Some 51 million US front-line essential workers, like firefighters, police, and teachers, as well as people older than 75 should be next to receive a vaccine, a CDC advisory panel has recommended.

Source: News Agencies