WASHINGTON — The federal government plans to make a shift in the way vaccine doses are allocated amongst states, allowing some governors to turn down doses they don’t need or want, as President Joe Biden is expected to lay out plans to get at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 70 percent of adults by July 4.
Administration officials told governors on Tuesday that if a state doesn’t want all of its allocation, then the vaccines will go into a pool and be redistributed to other states in more need of additional doses, a senior administration official said. For weeks, some states, like West Virginia, have been reporting unused doses as demand wanes while others, like Michigan, have clamored for more.
“Its really just an indication that we’re at a different phase now then we were even a couple of weeks ago in terms of access to supply and we want to ensure that we free up unused and unordered doses,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday.
The move comes as Biden is also aiming to have 160 million Americans vaccinated with both doses by Independence Day, a senior administration official said. Biden is expected to make his remarks Tuesday afternoon from the White House. Currently, 56 percent of adults have had at least one shot and 105 million are fully vaccinated, the official said.
To meet those goals, the U.S. plans to administer an additional 100 million doses in the next 60 days, a significant slowdown in the pace of vaccinations compared to the last 100 days. To accomplish the goal, administration officials acknowledge they will have to increase their focus on getting the vaccine to harder to reach populations, like those in rural areas.
“If we make progress towards this goal more and more Americans will gain protection from Covid-19,” the official said. “We should see case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continue to fall and America will have taken a serious step toward a return to normal.”
Biden will lay out several new steps the administration is taking to try to reach those who have yet to be vaccinated, including using $860 million from the Covid-19 relief bill passed in March to help fund rural health clinics and hospitals and $250 million in funding for community organizations to help with vaccine education and outreach.
Among those harder to reach groups the administration is targeting are rural communities with largely rural states, like Mississippi, Utah and Alabama having some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. To make it easier for Americans in rural communities to access to the vaccine, the administration will be sending doses directly to thousands of health clinics in those areas.
The U.S. will also require all retail pharmacies receiving vaccine doses from the federal government to offer walk-up vaccinations that don’t require an appointment and is encouraging states to do the same at their sites. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be increasingly sending out mobile vaccination units and setting up small, temporary vaccination sites to get to harder to reach groups.
Should the Food and Drug Administration give clearance for the Pfizer vaccine to be used in 12 to 15 year olds, a decision that could expected in the coming days, the federal government plans to immediately ship doses to pediatricians and family doctors.
One senior administration official said that the 70 percent mark won’t necessarily mean the U.S. has reached herd immunity because public health officials don’t know the precise level where that will be achieved. But it will enable further restrictions to be lifted and life to return closer to normal.
“The more you vaccinate people, the more you can pull back on some of the public health restrictions,” a senior administration official said. If the U.S. is able to reach the 70 percent goal “we can do what we all want to do, which is to continue and gradually pull back on the restrictions, so that we can get back to our normal lives.”
White House to shift how vaccines are allocated to states as Biden sets new inoculation goals