US scrambles to speed up Covid-19 shots

Updated January 13, 2021

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New York, Jan 13 (IANS) Alarmed by a sluggish coronavirus vaccine rollout, US health agencies announced a string of changes to expand supply, loosen eligibility guidelines and open more locations for people to get shots in arms as the pandemic continues to rage.

As of January 11, the US government had distributed about 27.7 million doses but only a little over 9 million have got their first shots, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracker.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the federal government will now base each state's vaccine supply pipeline on the success rate of administering shots that have already been sent.

"If you are not using vaccines that you have the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine," Azar said at a news conference.

"This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation," said Azar. "Every vaccine dose sitting in a warehouse rather than going into an arm could mean one more death that could have been avoided."

Azar said the government will no longer hold back the second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which was the protocol to begin with. Also, states are being urged to vaccinate cohorts who come lower down in the initial priority list recommended by the CDC.

The new approach aligns with President elect Joe Biden's plan to release most of the available vaccine doses so that a greater share of the population can be protected.

The US leads the world in coronavirus caseload and deaths. More than 22 million have been infected, more than 380,000 have been killed by the virus that first exploded across the world more than a year ago, from Wuhan, China.

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