WASHINGTON | Facing a slower-than-hoped coronavirus vaccine rollout, the Trump administration abruptly shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots to more people. The move came as cases and deaths surged to alarming new highs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a series of major changes to increase supply of vaccines, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots. Administration officials describing the new policies conveyed a notable sense of urgency.
Azar said the federal government will base each state’s allocation of vaccines partly on how successful states have been in administering those.
That won’t happen overnight, not until officials try to sort out whether lags in reporting could be the reason for what appears to be subpar performance. Currently, the government allocates vaccines based on state population.
Azar also said the government will stop holding back the required second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, practically doubling supply. Both those shots require two doses to achieve optimum protection.
Washington is urging states to start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems.
Initially the government had been holding back second doses as a safety precaution against potential shortfalls in production. Now, officials say they are confident the needed supply will be there. And people needing a second dose will have priority.
Azar also gave states the green light to designate more places where people can get shots. Those locations can include tens of thousands of pharmacies, federally supported community health centers that serve low-income communities, and mass vaccination sites already being set up in some states.