U.S. to release COVID-19 doses in push for older Americans to get shots, Azar says

(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.

The move announced by U.S. 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.

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Queens Police Academy in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., January 11, 2021. Jeenah Moon/Pool via REUTERS

Most states prioritized health-care workers and nursing home staff and residents for their first deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccines which began last month, following recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The process of inoculating those groups has been slow due partly 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, Azar said on the television program. He said the United States must expand the availability of shots in community health centers and pharmacies, and said the federal government will deploy people to mass vaccination centers.

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 Inc and partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, makers of the first two coronavirus vaccines authorized for use in the United States, are able to maintain a consistent supply so second shots could still be administered on schedule.

Nearly 9 million people in the United States were given their first COVID-19 vaccination dose as of Monday, according to the CDC.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru and Caroline Humer; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis


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