US to release Covid-19 doses in push for older Americans to get shots

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The Trump administration plans to release Covid-19 vaccine doses it has been holding back for second shots and will urge states to offer them to all Americans over age 65, the United States’ top health official said on Tuesday (Jan 12).

The move announced by US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on ABC’s Good Morning America is in line with President-elect Joe Biden’s plan unveiled last week to accelerate distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and jump-start lagging inoculations.

Most states prioritised healthcare workers and nursing home staff and residents for their first deliveries of the Covid-19 vaccines which began last month, following recommendations from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The process of inoculating those groups has been slow partly due to the complexity of giving the vaccines to these groups.

The CDC last week made clear that states can move on to the next priority group – people older than 75 and essential workers – without finishing that first round of inoculations, but fewer than 20 states have done so.

The government will call on governors to open up vaccinations to everyone older than 65, Mr Azar said on the television programme.

He said the US must expand the availability of shots in community health centres and pharmacies, and said the federal government will deploy people to mass vaccination centres.

Bloomberg reported that CDC head, Dr Robert Redfield, on Tuesday would send a letter to governors making the recommendations.

The new strategy would require that Pfizer and partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna – makers of the first two coronavirus vaccines authorised for use in the US – are able to maintain a consistent supply so second shots could still be administered on schedule.

Nearly 9 million people in the US were given their first Covid-19 vaccination dose as at Monday, according to the CDC.

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