States can expect about 14.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week, an almost 70% increase in distribution over the past month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Pharmacies will also the shipments sent directly to them increase by about 100,000 doses this week, Psaki said.
The stepped-up efforts come as the COVID-19 death toll in the US surpassed 500,000 – far more than any other country.
Biden officials admitted last week that the extreme weather that swept much of the US and left parts without power last week had delayed the delivery of six million doses of precious COVID-19 vaccines.
From coast to coast, states were scrambling Tuesday to catch up on vaccinations a week after winter storms battered a large swath of the US and led to clinic closures, canceled appointments and shipment backlogs nationwide.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 13.3 percent of Americans have had one or more doses of COVID-19 vaccines. More than 64 million doses have been administered, according to Bloomberg data.
But the storms threw a wrench in the rollout. From February 10 to 18, the US was giving an average of 1.6 or 1.7 million shots a day. By Monday, that figure was down to 1.4 million doses a day.
Keeping pace in the vaccine race is more critical than ever as fast-spreading variants threaten to reverse the promising trends in US coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, officials like Dr Anthony Fauci and CDC director Rochelle Walensky have warned in recent weeks.
What’s more, limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines hampered the pace of vaccinations even before last week’s snow, ice, and power outages hit.
Vaccine makers told Congress on Tuesday that the will considerably boost the US supply in the coming weeks as well.
President Joe Biden has said that every American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of July.
But demand continues to outpace limited supplies distributed by the US government.
The US is giving about just shy of 1.4 million doses of vaccines a day, but most states are running out of supply. Another 135 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna over the next five weeks could dramatically increase the daily vaccination rates
FEMA is supporting the opening of mass vaccination sites like this one in New York City – but many of them faced short supplies this week and last due to the winter storms that ripped across the US
Executives from five companies with contracts to supply shots to the US — Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax – testified Tuesday before Congress ‘Energy and Commerce Committee about the supply and manufacturing of doses.
Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna executives said they expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.
Arizona is pressing on with plans to increase vaccinations and vaccine access, opening its fourth state-run mass vaccination clinic, state health department officials said. In addition, transportation costs to and from vaccination appointments now will be covered for people enrolled in Arizona’s Medicaid program, Governor Doug Ducey said.
‘This change will make it easier for our most vulnerable Arizonans…to get vaccinated,’ Ducey said in a statement.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said 11 mobile clinics will open in California’s vast Central Valley, an agricultural region that’s been hit hard by coronavirus. They’ll be used mainly to vaccinate farmworkers who don’t have transportation to larger vaccination sites or can’t navigate the state’s online signup portal.
Newsom said the state also is sending 34,000 extra vaccine doses to that area from a pharmacy that wasn’t using them quickly enough.
FEMA helped New York City and Houston and Harris County, Texas, open mass vaccination sites, and additional sites will be opening within the coming weeks in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Orleans.
Two federal mass vaccination sites also opened in California last week, but were immediately met with supply shortages.
More than half of US states have used up 85 percent or more of the vaccine doses distributed to them so far, although they are expected to get deliveries of 13.5 million more doses of vaccines this week.
The two companies have considerably ramped up their production of vaccine doses and found solutions to previous manufacturing issues that caused bottlenecks in production.
And Johnson & Johnson said it is ready to ship four million doses of its vaccine upon emergency FDA authorization – which could come as soon as Friday – and could deliver 20 million doses by the end of next month.
Pfizer earlier this month said it had doubled its production speed at its Michigan manufacturing plant, which President Joe Biden visited Friday (pictured, file)
AstraZeneca said it expects to get authorization in April and will have 30 million doses ready to ship.
To date, Pfizer has delivered about 40 million doses to the US, and Moderna has delivered 45 million, executives for each firm said in prepared testimony for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.
CDC‘s vaccine tracker says the US has received a total of 75 million doses from the two companies, leaving the remainder to be shipped by the end of March between 135 and 145 million doses from the two companies.
Together, Pfizer and Moderna are contracted to deliver 600 million doses of their shots to the US by the end of July, and they’ve pledged to have 220 million ready by the end of March.
How West Virginia has become a GLOBAL front-runner in COVID vaccine roll-out
West Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of obese adults, the highest drug-overdose death rate and the highest number of residents with diabetes.
But the Mountain State is also leading the nation in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout with the highest per capita distribution of the shots – second only to Alaska, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health officials in West Virginia have administered 465,593 first and second doses – 90 percent of its supply and enough to vaccinate one-quarters of its population.
If the state were a country, it would have the fifth-highest vaccination rate in the world behind Israel, the Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.
Experts say that West Virginia’s success can be attributed to opting for a hotline instead of an online appointment system, partnering with local pharmacies and enlisting the help of the National Guard.
To schedule vaccine appointments, most states have used online registration system and some have even turned to the event ticket sales platform Eventbrite.
However, these systems have been plagued with overloads and crashes, and Jam Gen James Hoyer says is not practical in West Virginia because 30 percent of the state does not have access to broadband Internet, he told NPR.
‘If you’re talking about people over the age of 70 and in their 80s, how many of them are Internet savvy?’ he added.
The team decided to instead create a telephone hotline that residents could call with questions about the vaccine or to schedule an appointment.
As of Monday, the hotline has yet to crash due to West Virginia’s relatively small population of 1.79 million.
Moderna says it will increase weekly shipments to the US to 40 million a week by the end of April. Pfizer said it would increase shipments from four to five million to 13 million a week ‘over the coming weeks.’
After they failed to meet early delivery goals due to supply chain and production issues, each firm has now said it is operating ahead of schedule.
As of Tuesday, nearly 64.2 million of those 85 million doses had been administered to Americans, according to data from Bloomberg.
The US rollout picked up steam earlier this month, but last week’s extreme weather was a blow to President Biden’s aim to dramatically accelerate vaccinations (though the campaign is still on track to meet his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days handily).
The US is now giving 1.37 million doses a day, but shipments are barely keeping up with the pace at which shots are being administered, with more than 85 percent of distributed doses already used up in more than half of states.
‘Because of the dire need to vaccinate more people, we have ramped up production of doses,’ said Pfizer’s chief business officer, John Young, in his testimony.
Despite the ramp-up, just 13.3 percent of the US population has received one or more doses of vaccine, and just shy of six percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.
Pfizer fell short of its earliest global distribution goals due to supply chain issues. As a result it cut the number of doses it shipped globally by the end of 2020 by half.
By the end of 2020, the US government said it had distributed a combined 14 million doses of shots from Pfizer and Moderna to states and three million shots had been administered .
Both figures were far short of Operation Warp Speed’s goal of giving 20 million first doses by the end of last year.
Pfizer hit a second speed bump when updates to its Brussels manufacturing plant caused further production delays, though it said it was still able to deliver about 92 percent of its promised supply.
But in early February the firm announced it had doubled output so that it could produce a batch of vaccine doses every 60 days, instead every 110 days, according to a USA Today report.
‘Since July, we have increased projected 2021 global production from 1.3 billion doses, to at least 2 billion doses,’ Young said in his testimony.
The firm has opened new facilities, upgraded old ones, and gotten the FDA’s okay to label its vials for six doses instead of five.
‘As a result of these improvements, we expect to increase the number of doses we make available for shipment from approximately 4 to 5 million doses per week at the beginning of February to more than 13 million doses per week by the middle of March,’ Young said.
‘We are on track to make 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses by the end of May. And, we anticipate all 300 million contracted doses will be made available for shipment by the end of July, enabling the vaccination of up to 150 million Americans.’
About 13% of the US has had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with the highest rates in states like West Virginia and Alaska
States are using up their supply of vaccine doses nearly as fast as the federal government can ship doses. More than half of states have used up more than 85% of their doses
West Virginia has the fifth-highest vaccination rate the world, at 25.8%, behind Israel, the Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates and the UK, as well as the US as a whole
Moderna has hit fewer production snags early on, but several of its batches spoiled during distribution by partner McKesson, as well as on-site in Maine and California.
CEO Stephane Bancel said in January that, although the overall production was successfully increasing, exactly how many doses it could offer on a given day or week fluctuated with the availability of raw materials.
And last week the company said it had experienced some ‘short-term delays’ at contract manufacturing plant Catalent that delayed delivery of some doses but would soon be resolved and ‘are not expected to impact monthly delivery targets.’
It did not specify the nature of the issue.
Moderna also asked the FDA permission to increase the number of doses it fills its bottles with by up to 40 percent, because while its supply of the vaccine serum itself was increasing, the number of bottles its machines can fill at once are limited.
Now, Moderna president Dr Stephen Hoge tells Congress the firm has doubled its production of COVID-19 vaccines and will double it again by the end of April.
‘To date, we have delivered over 45 million doses of our vaccine, with tens of millions more at different stages of the production process,’ said Hoge in his testimony.
‘We are on track to meet our commitment to deliver 100 million doses by the end of March. We have doubled our monthly deliveries since late 2020, and we are aiming to double them again by April to more than 40 million doses per month.
‘Based on this progress scaling up manufacturing, we recently agreed to move up our delivery timeline: we now are aiming to deliver a second hundred million doses by the end of May and a third hundred million doses by the end of July.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson is ramping up its vaccine production as it looks ahead in the hopes of emergency authorization soon.
An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet Thursday to discuss whether to greenlight Johnson & Johnson’s shot.
‘We will have 20 million doses of the vaccine to be made available by the end of March and we are prepared to ship four million doses immediately upon emergency approval,’ said Vice President of Medical Affairs of Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm.