President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release every available dose of the coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a break with the Trump administration’s strategy of holding back half of US vaccine production to ensure second doses are available.
What this means: Releasing all vaccine doses on hand could quickly ratchet up the availability of coronavirus vaccines by allowing more people access to a first dose. It could also be a risky strategy as both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses, administered at specific intervals, and vaccine manufacturing has not ramped up as rapidly as many experts had hoped.
“The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now,” said TJ Ducklo, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition. “He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office on January 20th.”
The comment from Biden’s transition comes after a group of governors wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave Perna pressing the federal government to distribute “reserved doses” of the Covid-19 vaccine to states that need them.
“Our states are ready to work around the clock to ramp up distribution, get more shots in arms, and save more American lives. General Perna, as you have stated before, ‘a vaccine sitting on a shelf is not effective,'” the letter reads. “We couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why we are asking for your help now. When we work together, we can end this pandemic and return to a life of normalcy sooner.”
The Trump administration has insisted it’s necessary to hold back doses to ensure Americans who receive the first course of the two-dose vaccine will be sure to have access to a second dose. But the move has sparked a debate about whether a better strategy would be releasing all available doses as quickly as possible, particularly amid rising death and hospitalization rates. A study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine also found that administering first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to more individuals instead of withholding available supply for use as a second dose may reduce the number of new cases.
“Operation Warp Speed is continuing to ensure second doses are available to vaccine administration sites, at appropriate intervals, as directed by jurisdiction leaders,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services. “We would be delighted to learn that jurisdictions have actually administered many more doses than they are presently reporting. We are encouraging jurisdictions to expand their priority groups as needed to ensure no vaccine is sitting on the shelf after having been delivered to the jurisdiction-directed locations.”
The spokesperson also noted the US Food and Drug Administration recently reiterated the importance…