U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a news briefing on the administration's response to the coronavirus at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Operation Warp Speed officials announced Tuesday that states that administer their allotted vaccine doses at the quickest pace will soon get higher priority for additional doses.

“We will be allocating them based on the pace of administration as reported by states and by the size of the 65-and-over population in each state,” Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters. “We’re giving states two weeks’ notice of this shift to give them the time necessary to plan and to improve their reporting if they think their data is faulty.”

He added that the new system “should not necessarily hurt many states, but will enhance the benefit to those that are actually getting vaccines done and performed.”

The decision came after a relatively slow rollout of vaccine doses in December and January. States have struggled to get shots into arms quickly, since state health departments are simultaneously dealing with an unprecedented surge of coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed hospitals. States weren’t given extra funding heading into the vaccine rollout, so resource and staffing shortages have slowed vaccine administration in some places.

Warp Speed missed its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020. Only around 9 million shots have been administered so far, Azar said Tuesday.

Still, the pace of vaccinations has ramped up considerably in the last two weeks. The US is now conducting roughly 700,000 vaccinations per day, compared to around 500,000 per day at the beginning of January. Azar said the country is on track to hit 1 million vaccinations per day in the next seven to 10 days.

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“With the case counts we face now, there is absolutely no time to waste,” he said. “We need doses going to where they’ll be administered quickly and where they’ll protect the most vulnerable.”

An incentive for speedy rollouts

Azar said the new system for vaccine distribution is intended to motivate states to get shots into arms rather than “sitting on shelves or in freezers.”

“If you’re not using vaccine that you had the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine,” he said. “It is common sense.”

Azar didn’t provide further detail about what metrics states would need to hit to be prioritized for more doses, but he pointed to Connecticut and West Virginia as examples of states that had successfully ramped up vaccinations to older Americans in recent weeks.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told CNBC on Monday that the state had no vaccines sitting on shelves. Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker shows that the state has administered nearly 67% of its available doses so far — second only to North Dakota, which has administered nearly 80%. Connecticut ranks third in the country for vaccines administered, having given out 60% of its available doses.

In some cases, states may have simply been slow to record the shots they’ve administered, Azar said. The number of reported vaccinations typically lags 24 to 72 hours behind those that have actually been administered.

Prioritizing states with …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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